Team Notes Week 7 2020
NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS AND OTHER GOOD STUFF
Directly from the desk of FlashUpdate Editor Bob Harris. The good; the bad; and yes. ... Even the Bears. There is no better way to jump start your weekend than browsing these always educational -- often irreverent -- team-by-team, Fantasy-specific offerings. ...
Access specific teams by clicking on a team name in the schedule appearing directly to your left or by clicking on a helmet below; return to the helmets by hitting the link labeled "Menu" following each teams notes. ...
Arizona CardinalsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 20 October 2020
Kliff Kingsbury and Kyler Murray had happy homecomings, beating up on a homecoming opponent.
The Cardinals came to ATandT Stadium and acted as if they owned the place, whipping the home team from start to finish. Arizona beat (and beat up) the Cowboys 38-10. They climbed back to .500 at 3-3.
Murray, who grew up a hop, skip and jump from ATandT Stadium in Allen, threw two touchdowns and ran for another. Kingsbury, who played and coached at Texas Tech, called the plays for an offense that rolled to 438 yards.
DeAndre Hopkins and Christian Kirk also have Texas ties, with Hopkins having played seven seasons in Houston and Kirk having played collegiately at Texas AandM. Kirk caught two passes for 86 yards and two touchdowns, one covering 80 yards, and Hopkins had two catches for 73 yards, including a 60-yarder.
Despite the positive outcome, Murray wasn't thrilled with his own performance.
"For me personally the whole game was sloppy," Murray told reporters after the game.
Murray threw for 188 yards and two touchdowns and also ran for 74 yards on 10 attempts with a rushing touchdown as well. However, Murray completed just nine of his 24 passing attempts on the night and he was critical of the mistakes he made that led to missed opportunities.
"Yeah, a part of me wants to (be happy) but a lot of me is frustrated right now," Murray said. "It wasn't as good as it should have been. I wasn't as accurate as I should have been. It wasn't up to par to my standards so I've got to do better.
"I missed a throw to (Hopkins), which shouldn't happen. Missed a throw to Larry Fitzgerald. Just a lot of stuff left out there, a lot of opportunities left out there. It could have been a lot better."
While he's focused on correcting his mistakes, Murray was still able to enjoy getting another victory back in his home town of Dallas.
"It was fun. It brought back a lot of memories. Felt like I've been playing there every Sunday, honestly. It was comfortable, felt good," Murray said.
For the record, Monday marked the fifth time this season that Murray had a passing touchdown and a rushing touchdown, the most in the first six games of a season in NFL history. It was also the sixth time since the start of last season that Murray had a passing TD and a rushing TD, second most in that stretch.
Murray became the third player in league history with 30 passing TDs and 10 rushing touchdowns in the first 25 games of his career. He did so in 22 games, tying Daunte Culpepper for the quickest QB to reach the mark.
On Monday, the Cardinals were seemingly able to do what they pleased on all phases and on both sides of the ball.
Running back Kenyan Drake had 169 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries.
The Cardinals forced Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott to fumble twice and scored on both possessions, which were on short fields. The first was caused by safety Budda Baker, who also had his first career interception and a sack, and was recovered by Jordan Phillips, who forced the second one, which was recovered by cornerback Byron Murphy Jr.
Outside linebacker Haason Reddick had two sacks in place of Chandler Jones, who was put on injured reserve last week after undergoing surgery to repair a torn biceps.
Next up. ... The Cardinals host the division rival Seahawks on Sunday.
QBs: Kyler Murray, Chris Streveler, Brett Hundley
RBs: Kenyan Drake, Chase Edmonds, D.J. Foster, Jonathan Ward, Eno Benjamin
WRs: DeAndre Hopkins, Christian Kirk, Larry Fitzgerald, Andy Isabella, KeeSean Johnson, Trent Sherfield
TEs: Dan Arnold, Maxx Williams, Darrell Daniels
Atlanta FalconsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 20 October 2020
As ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert framed it, "The Atlanta Falcons completed a week of new beginnings Sunday by taking a big lead -- and holding it."
After jumping out to a 20-point halftime lead at U.S. Bank Stadium, the Falcons closed out their first victory of the season and trounced the Minnesota Vikings 40-23. The performance made a winner out of interim coach Raheem Morris, who replaced the fired Dan Quinn earlier this week.
The Falcons entered the game without a win despite holding a 20-0 lead in one of their games (Week 2 against the Dallas Cowboys) and a 26-10 advantage in the fourth quarter of another (Week 3 against the Chicago Bears).
The firing of Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff initiated an organizational overhaul focused on the long-term future, but Sunday's victory -- albeit against the 1-5 Vikings -- suggested the Falcons might still be competitive in 2020.
Holding a game ball during a post-game meeting with reporters, Morris referenced the team's historic "Dirty Bird" culture in assessing the victory.
"It's less about what it means to me," Morris said. "It's about what it means to us. To reinvigorate the team, the city, and everything about it. A little brotherhood, a little Dirty Bird, in collaboration with a win, sounds good to me."
Matthew Tabeek of the team's official website put it like this: "Speed, hard hits, turnovers and vintage Matt Ryan-to-Julio Jones touchdowns. Oh, and a healthy dose of Todd Gurley mixed in."
Oh. And the defense showed up.
The Falcons defense picked off Kirk Cousins three times in the first half -- the first time that had ever happened in the Vikings' quarterback's career -- and cashed those in for 17 points while building up the above-mentioned 20-point lead.
There was no premature celebrating. The Falcons stayed locked in and aggressive.
In the first half, the Falcons not only forced three turnovers, they dominated the time of possession 20:29 to 9:31, and a big reason why was because they were committed to the run and chewed up the clock. Atlanta ran the ball 19 times for 45 yards in the first half, with Gurley leading the way with 12 rushes for 28 yards.
By game's end, the Falcons had run it 37 times for 99 yards.
As AJC.com's Jason Butt reported, "Ryan was calm, efficient and accurate throughout the game." He was on target with his throws and had plenty of help from his offensive line. Ryan completed 30 of 40 passes for 371 yards and four touchdowns, with an average yards per attempt of 9.3.
"I think that's always the mindset I've had, to go out there and play my best every week," Ryan said. "We have to earn everything we get in this profession. I don't think it really changed my approach or anything. I believe I have a really good process and a way to get ready week in and week out. I trust that process."
On Wednesday, Ryan was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week.
Part of what went into Ryan's strong outing was having Jones back in the fold. Jones has been nursing a lingering hamstring this season that forced him to miss games against the Chicago Bears and Carolina Panthers while exiting Week 4's contest against the Green Bay Packers at halftime.
Ryan's longtime favorite target hauled in eight catches for 137 yards and two touchdowns.
But Ryan did a great job spreading his passes around in what was a vintage outing for the most successful quarterback in Falcons history. Ryan distributed the ball to nine different players and also tossed touchdown passes to receiver Calvin Ridley and tight end Hayden Hurst.
The Falcons scored on 8 of 12 possessions, with one kneel down at the end of the game.
As a result, the Falcons are the 3rd team since the 1970 merger to start a season 0-5 or worse and then score at least 40 points in their first win of the season. The 0-5 Packers beat the Patriots 45-3 in 1988 and the 0-10 Colts beat the Packers 41-38 in 1997.
Morris said before the game, "There's nothing that's going to stop us from trying to go 1-0."
The Falcons are 1-0.
Can they keep it going? We're about to find out.
The Falcons host Detroit on Sunday. ...
For the record. ... Sunday was Jones' 57th career game with at least 100 receiving yards, which is the most among active players and the fourth-most in NFL history. Jerry Rice (76), Randy Moss (64) and Marvin Harrison (59), who all have busts in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, have had more in NFL history.
"(There's) nothing holding me back," Jones said. "I'm ready to go. More practice and more games to be all the way myself."
Jones took a full load, playing 64 of 80 offensive snaps (80 percent) against the Vikings. Ridley, who cramped up during the game, played less at 59 snaps (74 percent).
Russell Gage, with four catches for 65 yards, and Hurst, with four for 57, both caught all of their targets.
Worth noting. ... Jones (hamstring) did not practice. Ridley (elbow) was limited; I'll follow via Late-Breaking Update as needed.
QBs: Matt Ryan, Matt Schaub
RBs: Ito Smith, Todd Gurley, Brian Hill, Qadree Ollison
WRs: Calvin Ridley, Russell Gage, Christian Blake, Brandon Powell, Julio Jones, Olamide Zaccheaus
TEs: Hayden Hurst, Jaeden Graham, Luke Stocker
Baltimore RavensCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 20 October 2020
According to BaltimoreRavens.com's Clifton Brown, the Ravens' bye is coming at the right time, as Baltimore suffered three injuries Sunday to players who did not return.
Running back Mark Ingram (ankle) and cornerback Anthony Averett (shoulder) were ruled out after leaving in the first half. Starting right guard Tyre Phillips (hand) also left the game in the fourth quarter and did not return.
According to NFL Network's Tom Pelissero, Ingram's MRI showed a mid- to high-ankle sprain that isn't considered severe. Head coach John Harbaugh said Monday that Ingram probably will be back Nov. 1 against Pittsburgh.
Ingram (five carries, 20 yards) limped off the field after a first quarter run and had his ankle re-taped on the sideline. He returned for one more carry, but did not play in the second half. With Ingram out of the lineup, Gus Edwards and J.K. Dobbins shared the running back load for the remainder of the game.
The bye will give all three extra time to recover.
It will also give the team time to get their game on point.
Yes, they improved to 5-1 for the first time since their Super Bowl seasons in 2000 and 2012. But as ESPN.com's Jamison Hensley suggested, no one will be talking about title aspirations after a 30-28 win in Philadelphia.
The Ravens committed 12 penalties for 132 yards. The defense allowed 28 points in the second half. The offense couldn't close out the game in their usual fashion.
This is the third straight game in which the Ravens came away with the victory but felt like they should've played better. The difference this time is Baltimore failed to hold a 24-6 lead in the third quarter and needed a tackle by Matthew Judon and L.J. Fort on a two-point conversion with 1:55 remaining to avoid one of the biggest collapses in franchise history.
The Ravens' offense can be explosive and then struggle to get a first down. Their defense can dominate and then struggle to stop the big play.
Baltimore hasn't looked like the same team that finished with the best record in the NFL last season, and Lamar Jackson hasn't resembled his MVP form.
But this was also the case when the Ravens beat four previous teams this season by at least two touchdowns.
The Ravens will need to use this as a wake-up call heading into a bye. This type of performance likely won't cut it against the undefeated Steelers on Nov. 1. ...
On a day where the offense wasn't consistent through the air, Jackson proved lethal with his legs. Late in the third quarter, Jackson took the snap and burst up the middle. He went untouched 37 yards to extend the Ravens' lead to 24-6.
NFL Next Gen stats clocked Jackson at 21.01 mph, the fastest speed he's reached on any play in his career. Worth noting: Jackson is responsible for three of the five fastest speeds reached by a quarterback since the start of last season.
Jackson finished with 108 rushing yards and a touchdown on nine carries, looking like his explosive self.
"Whether Jackson is completing passes or smacking the ground in frustration after missing on a throw, he still changes the game with his legs and did so again today," Press Box's Bo Smolka wrote. "He again showed he is capable of instant offense on every snap."
Edwards, Dobbins and Ingram combined for 28 carries, but they only averaged 2.8 yards per attempt. ...
Marquise Brown was limited to 57 yards on four catches. Mark Andrews finished with two catches for 21 yards, and no other receiver was targeted more than four times.
Still, as Rotoworld.com notes, Brown has the third most air yards in the NFL through six weeks.
Brown has 674 air yards this season -- only Adam Thielen and Calvin Ridley have more. Brown, who has a 26 percent target share, is 20th in receiving yards and has just one touchdown through six games. Brown investors shouldn't give up on him. ...
According to Penn Live's Aaron Kasinitz, Devin Duvernay's role in the offense continues to expand at a gradual pace. After he amassed a career-high three receptions for 31 yards and returned a kickoff 37 yards Sunday, the Ravens might want to think about speeding that process up and giving the third-round rookie the ball even more in weeks to come. ...
Justin Tucker proved again why he's the NFL's best kicker, finishing 3-for-3 on field goals and extra points, including a 55-yard kick that was probably good from at least 60.
QBs: Lamar Jackson, Tyler Huntley, Trace McSorley, Robert Griffin III
RBs: J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwards, Justice Hill, Mark Ingram
WRs: Marquise Brown, Dez Bryant, Willie Snead, Miles Boykin, Devin Duvernay, James Proche
TEs: Mark Andrews, Eric Tomlinson
Buffalo BillsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 20 October 2020
As NFL.com's Nick Shook noted, after starting 4-0 with an MVP-like quarterback leading the way, the Bills have lost two straight with a similar theme appearing in each defeat: Buffalo just can't keep up offensively.
The reliance on Josh Allen that proved fruitful in the season's first month has become a hurdle, best demonstrated in the Bills' Monday loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in which Allen completed 14 of 27 passes for 122 yards, two touchdowns and an interception on a rainy night in Buffalo.
Those 122 passing yards marked his lowest total since Week 6 of his rookie season, excluding a Week 17 game against the New York Jets last season when he played only one series.
"We weren't good enough," Allen said, via the team's official site. "I was not good enough. I got to do a better job. It's plain and simple. I didn't play very good tonight. I know that, understand that. This team can't afford to have me play poorly. Early on, just not being as accurate with the ball as I should have been, making the right reads, making the right throws. We turned it on a little too late there, obviously."
In a game against a team such as Kansas City, your best defense is often your offense, and Buffalo's was simply not up to par. With rain steadily falling, Andy Reid's Chiefs shrunk their already-shorter offense (more on that here) with a focus on maintaining control of the ball, dominating the time-of-possession battle, 37:45-22:15. A second-half sequence in what was a one-score game perfectly captured the story of the contest.
Following a missed chance to steal three points at the end of the first half, Buffalo's defense stiffened to open the third quarter, forcing a Kansas City punt and giving the Bills a great chance to either tie the 13-10 game or take the lead. The Allen-led offense promptly earned 17 yards before punting it back to the Chiefs.
On the final offensive play that preceded the punt, Allen dropped to throw, spotted Cole Beasley running a drag from left to right with a step or two on his man, and threw wide of his intended target, glancing off Beasley's outstretched hand.
The quarterback's errant throw toward Beasley ended the possession, and Kansas City followed with a 13-play, 87-yard touchdown drive that served as a gut punch to the Bills' hopes of a prime-time win.
"You know, 16 and 17 points is not going to cut it in this league," Allen said. "It didn't matter who we played tonight. If that's how we play, we're going to struggle to win games. It is what it is right now. We'll learn from this. I'm obviously super frustrated with myself and how I performed tonight. I can't do that to this team. So, I've got to be better and I will be better."
Monday night was Allen's second straight contest with a sub-80 passer rating and Buffalo's second consecutive loss on a prime-time stage to a team that found itself in the AFC Championship Game last season. It's a tough two-week stretch, no doubt, especially considering the scheduling hurdles that put those games on a Tuesday and a Monday instead of the originally scheduled Sunday and Thursday.
But schedule changes aren't plaguing these Bills -- it's their sudden offensive ineffectiveness. They rediscovered some of what helped them sprint to a 4-0 start, throwing together a six-play, 62-yard scoring drive in the fourth quarter to make it a one-score game, but it was too late to save Monday night.
Allen and the Bills get a bounce-back game against the winless Jets in Week 7 before hosting the New England Patriots in Week 8.
As ESPN.com's Marcel Louis-Jacques reminded readers, Buffalo has publicly stated its goal of winning the AFC East for the first time since 1995, and in order for the Bills to do so, Allen must return to a level of play comparable to what he showed during the first four weeks of the season. ...
One last note on Allen. ... Monday night marked the sixth straight game he threw at least two touchdown passes. It marks only the second time in Bills history that a quarterback has put together a streak of six games or more with at least two passing TDs. Hall of Famer Jim Kelly is the only other Bills quarterback to do it having a stretch of seven straight games stretching from the end of the 1991 season through the start of the 1992 season. ...
Also of interest. ... On a more positive note, Stefon Diggs is not only first in the AFC in receiving yards for a second consecutive week, he is also the conference leader in receptions after his Monday night performance against the Chiefs (6 receptions, 46 yards, 1 TD).
Diggs has 42 receptions on the season to lead the conference and 555 receiving yards to also top the AFC.
And finally. ... Head coach Sean McDermott said on Tuesday that John Brown is still not 100 percent recovered from the knee injury that sidelined him against the Titans. Brown played against the Chiefs but didn't get a catch.
Brown was not on the practice field to start the week Wednesday. Knox was also sitting out.
Dawson Knox missed Monday night's game with a calf injury; I'll follow up on Brown and Knox via Late-Breaking Update as needed in coming days.
And finally. .. The Bills released offensive lineman Quinton Spain, who signed a three-year extension with the team in March. The sixth-year veteran started the first two games of the season for Buffalo but came off the bench for the following two before missing the last two while battling a foot injury.
QBs: Josh Allen, Matt Barkley, Jake Fromm
RBs: Devin Singletary, T.J. Yeldon, Taiwan Jones, Devonta Freeman, Zack Moss
WRs: Stefon Diggs, Cole Beasley, John Brown, Gabriel Davis, Isaiah McKenzie, Andre Roberts
TEs: Dawson Knox, Tyler Kroft, Lee Smith, Reggie Gilliam
Carolina PanthersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 20 October 2020
According to Myles Simmons of the team's official website, things began to look ominous even before Sunday's first snap from scrimmage.
On the opening kickoff, tight end Chris Manhertz was called for an illegal double-team block.
That put the Panthers at their 10-yard line for their opening drive, not an ideal place to be against Chicago's fierce defense.
Moments later, running back Mike Davis was dropped for a 1-yard loss on the first play from scrimmage. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was sacked at the 1-yard line on the second. Then Bridgewater threw the first of two interceptions when his pass was batted up by cornerback Jaylon Johnson and intercepted by safety Tashaun Gipson Jr.
The four plays were a nightmare scenario for a team looking for its fourth straight win. They also symbolized something larger that lasted through the afternoon.
"I thought offensively we are just out of sync," head coach Matt Rhule said. "Way too many miscues."
Simmons went on to note that Carolina knew the challenges of facing Chicago's defense.
The Bears entered the week ranked No. 4 in total defense and No. 9 in points allowed. They were second in third down defense and opponent passer rating and first in opponent red zone scoring and opponent completion percentage. Plus, the club has a terrific pass rush led by outside linebacker Khalil Mack.
So the Panthers had to be sharp offensively to have a good shot at winning. But from the first drive, that just wasn't the case.
"There were times we were running routes, and guys were not where they were supposed to be, running the wrong route," Rhule said. "I just thought it was a global issue today offensively."
The final stats illustrate the Panthers' struggles. Entering the game averaging 6.2 yards per play, Carolina finished at just 4.9 on Sunday. Chicago held running back Davis to only 52 yards on 18 carries, an average of 2.9 yards. Bridgewater finished 16-of-29 passing for 216 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions, his 50.4 passer rating the worst of the year.
"This game will humble you, and I'm pretty sure it humbled a lot of people today," Bridgewater said.
The Panthers also had three turnovers: Bridgewater's two interceptions and a Davis fumble, his first since 2016, and just his second in over 400 career touches.
"It's going to be hard to overcome the turnover battle when it's 3-1," Rhule said.
The red zone has been a consistent topic for the Panthers' offense over the last few weeks and will continue to be after they had to settle for 21- and 20-yard field goals to cap long drives in the first half.
As ESPN.com's David Newton noted, Carolina's only touchdown in the red zone came thanks to a questionable pass interference call that set up a first down at the 1. Davis scored on the next play.
Otherwise, the Panthers were dreadful inside the 20.
Rhule and his staff have been able to correct many mistakes week to week through this young season, but fixing the red zone woes has not been one of them and it will be a priority again.
Rhule acknowledge the offense inside the 20 is "clearly an issue."
Maybe the return of running back Christian McCaffrey from injured reserve, likely in the next couple of weeks, will help.
Prior to Sunday, the Panthers passed 47 percent of the time in the red zone, ranking 22nd in the NFL. They had converted 31 percent of red zone plays, ranking 24th. That combined for an overall ranking of 27th in the red zone, which is not good enough to win consistently.
"I just thought it was a global issue offensively," Rhule said of all the mistakes the Panthers made.
Whatever the case, two weeks after dismantling Arizona's top-rated third down defense, Carolina could not do the same to Chicago. The offense finished just 3-of-13 in the category.
Arguably the team's top third-down weapon, wide receiver Curtis Samuel, was inactive with a knee injury. Still, the Panthers weren't able to convert the vast majority of opportunities.
"We just have to be better on third downs," wide receiver D.J. Moore said.
Part of Carolina's third down struggles had to do with Chicago's constant pressure. With locked-down coverage and a collapsing pocket, Bridgewater often had to scramble to avoid getting taken down. Bridgewater, who was sacked four times and hit at least another six times, finished with eight rushes for 48 yards, with only one carry appearing to be a designed run.
"Teddy ran the ball more than I've seen him run the ball," Rhule said. "Their pressure gave us problems at times, and like I said, (we) just could never quite get into sync. ..."
Rhule has said the key is for the Panthers to keep learning and improving.
The Panthers visit the Saints next Sunday. ...
For the record. ... McCaffrey isn't expected to play in against New Orleans, but he has a chance to play in the Panthers' Week 8 game against the Falcons on Thursday Night Football, per various reports.
McCaffrey has been on injured reserve since injuring his ankle in a Week 2 loss to Tampa Bay. Davis has found success in his absence, rushing 63 times for 271 yards and two touchdowns from Week 3 onward. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Moore played 94 percent of the snaps, a new season high for him, with Samuel inactive with a knee injury. Moore was targeted 11 times and pulled down five catches for 93 yards.
It marked the third time that Moore has led the Panthers in receiving yards this season.
Wide receiver Robby Anderson had 77 yards on four receptions, his fewest catches in a game this season. But after the early afternoon games, Anderson moved into first place in the NFL in receiving yards with 566.
Wide receiver Keith Kirkwood made his season debut after being activated from injured reserve. He played 51 percent of the snaps and had one catch for 13 yards.
Bridgewater was limited to 216 passing yards on 16-of-29 passing (55.2 percent) with two interceptions, four sacks and six quarterback hits. It marked Bridgewater's lowest completion percentage of the season and fourth-lowest of his career.
Davis ran for 52 yards and a touchdown but was limited to just two receptions for three yards. He now has a touchdown in each of his last four games. Before this stretch, he had never scored in three straight games.
Running back Trenton Cannon played eight snaps after playing just two last week in Atlanta. Cannon touched the ball in five of his eight plays, finishing with 12 rushing yards and 15 receiving yards.
And finally. ... The Panthers added kicker Joey Slye and backup tackle Trent Scott to the COVID-19 list on Wednesday.
This came two days after guard Michael Schofield was placed on the list and the team asked players, coaches and staff members to work remotely on Monday and Tuesday. All returned to the stadium Wednesday. Carolina had kicker Casey Bednarski in for a visit on Monday so he could be Slye's replacement. He has begun testing.
Sunday's game against the Saints is on track to be played.
QBs: Teddy Bridgewater, Phillip Walker, Will Grier
RBs: Rodney Smith, Trenton Cannon, Reggie Bonnafon, Mike Davis, Christian McCaffrey
WRs: Robby Anderson, D.J. Moore, Curtis Samuel, Pharoh Cooper, Brandon Zylstra
TEs: Ian Thomas, Chris Manhertz, Colin Thompson
Chicago BearsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 20 October 2020
The Bears climbed to 5-1 with a road win over the Panthers on Sunday. As Profootballtalk.com's Mike Florio pointed out, they've yet to get the respect that a record like this should generate, in part because they're not winning in dominant fashion or exhilarating highlights.
And that's OK with quarterback Nick Foles.
"Would you rather lose pretty or win ugly?" a passionate and animated Foles said after Sunday's win over the Panthers. "I think we'd rather win ugly. ... Is this who we are offensively? We want to improve, we want to get better, we want to have rhythm. But ultimately in the NFL it's about winning games. It doesn't matter how you do it, it just matters that you get it done. If you put up 50 points and you lose a game, those 50 points don't mean anything."
Head coach Matt Nagy picked up on that theme during his Monday press conference.
Nagy said that Foles' comment "kind of sums it up" in terms of how the team is feeling and shared his belief that they're building "something special" in Chicago this season.
Nagy said that the team knows they have to be better "across the board on offense" in the weeks to come, but shared his confidence that things will fall into place and make an enjoyable start to the season even better.
"We're 5-1 right now and we're not playing well offensively," Nagy said. "So when we do get this thing up and running, which we will, it's going to be fun. It's going to be a lot of fun. And, so, that's the goal. We understand where our warts are on offense, we get that and we're going to keep working on it. We're going to continue to stay positive as we do this because of where we know we're at and where we're going."
Foles, in his third start for the Bears, completed 23 of 39 passes for 198 yards, with one touchdown and one interception. His passer rating was a sluggish 70.2.
As ESPN.com's Jeff Dickerson noted, Foles sometimes makes bad decisions. The veteran quarterback floated a terrible pass into tight coverage that Carolina easily intercepted in a key moment. Usually, Foles is smart with the football. The 31-year-old sees the field well and understands where receivers are supposed to be, and a testament to that is seven different Bears caught passes on Sunday.
The Bears trust Foles. That's unlikely to change any time soon -- even though the offense leaves a lot to be desired.
But nobody is complaining right now.
"Right now, we're winning games," Foles said. "We're playing together as a team. We can improve. I think that's exciting. If we were winning these games and playing perfect and they were this tight and we're playing perfect, where do you improve?"
They'll need to improve quickly. Next Monday night, they have a date with the Rams in L.A. Then, the Bears host the Saints. Then, the Bears face the Titans in Tennessee. Regardless, Foles is undaunted and undeterred.
"I'm excited about our offense, I'm excited about the guys that are there," Foles said. "I like the communication that's happening on the sideline. I love the passion of the players. Most importantly, they care. And we're bonding. We're getting to know each other. That's football. You don't just go out there and play football. You've gotta care about the man next to you to make those plays. So I like where we're at. I know we're gonna improve. I believe in our staff, I believe in our players, and I'm really grateful to be a part of this organization."
The organization is surely grateful to have Foles, a former Super Bowl MVP and the consummate teammate and leader.
At 5-1 through six games, even a .500 record over the next ten translates to 10-6 and, with seven playoff spots per conference, a near-certain playoff berth. ...
Other notes of interest. ... David Montgomery rushed 19 times for 58 yards while catching four passes for an additional 39 yards on Sunday.
As CBSSports.com suggested, fantasy managers were likely disappointed that Montgomery barely cracked three yards per carry against the second-most generous fantasy defense to opposing running backs, and unfortunately, he was unable to find the end zone on consecutive goal-line carries before Foles eventually scored on the next play.
Since taking over a full-time role in the backfield, Montgomery is averaging fewer than three yards per carry, but he's posted at least 30 receiving yards in each of those contests, making him a top-24 running back based on weekly volume.
Darnell Mooney caught three passes for 36 yards. Mooney continues to be the second-most utilized receiver on the Bears after Allen Robinson, but he's only surpassed 36 yards in one game. Until he begins to show a bit more consistency, he'll continue to be a depth option for fantasy managers.
Meanwhile, the Bears have tight ends who can actually play. Last season, Chicago tight ends combined for two touchdown receptions, tied with the New England Patriots for fewest in the NFL. Chicago overhauled the position in the offseason when it signed veterans Jimmy Graham and Demetrius Harris in free agency and drafted Cole Kmet in the second round out of Notre Dame.
The moves have paid dividends. Bears tight ends have already made five touchdown receptions thus far in 2020. The latest occurred on Sunday when Kmet made a difficult 9-yard touchdown grab (in traffic) for the first score of the game.
Kmet and Graham combined for seven receptions on the afternoon.
Finally. ... Last year's feel-good story, kicker Eddy Pineiro (injured reserve/groin), might need to look for a new home. Veteran kicker Cairo Santos has filled in admirably for Pineiro, who has been sidelined with a groin injury since the summer. Pineiro made 23 of 28 field goal attempts in 2019, but that feels like ancient history. Santos has been just as good if not better. Santos booted a career-long 55-yard field goal on Sunday.
Santos was perfect on the day, hitting five kicks, converting two extra points and three field goals, including the game winner. On Wednesday he was named NFC Special Teams Player of the Week.
Through six games, Santos is 10-of-12 on field goals, including a game winner against Tampa in Week 5.
Santos' history with Nagy -- dating back to their time together in Kansas City -- only helps the kicker's cause.
QBs: Mitchell Trubisky, Nick Foles, Tyler Bray
RBs: David Montgomery, Ryan Nall, Artavis Pierce, Tarik Cohen
WRs: Allen Robinson, Darnell Mooney, Anthony Miller, Cordarrelle Patterson, Javon Wims, Riley Ridley, Alex Wesley
TEs: Cole Kmet, Jimmy Graham, Demetrius Harris, J.P. Holtz
Cincinnati BengalsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 20 October 2020
As ESPN.com's Ben Baby framed it, "There's a reason the Cincinnati Bengals have been one of the worst teams in the NFL since the start of the 2019 season."
Baby went on to explain that winning close games have been all but impossible during Zac Taylor's coaching tenure.
That proved to be the case on Sunday in a 31-27 loss against Indianapolis. Under Taylor, the Bengals are 1-11-1 in one-score games, which is easily the worst record in the NFL during that span. The lone win was a Week 4 victory against the Jacksonville Jaguars this season in which a late field goal cut Cincinnati's winning margin to 33-25.
Sunday's loss to the Colts was perhaps the most troubling of the one-score lapses.
The Bengals started fast Sunday.
But after building a 21-0 lead early in the second quarter and scoring on their first four possessions, Cincinnati managed only one more field goal and headed home from Indianapolis with a 31-27 loss.
As Associated Press sports writer Michael Marot noted, the extra-frustrating things about this one is the Bengals seemed to be doing everything right.
"I don't know what happened in the second (quarter), I guess we just let off the gas, and we can't do that," rookie receiver Tee Higgins said. "We've got to stay in full throttle the whole game and finish it up."
Joe Burrow was a solid 25 of 39 with 313 yards. He scored the Bengals' second touchdown, a 2-yard run on fourth down to make it 14-0, and the only major mistake he made came on an interception into coverage with 39 seconds left in the game.
Still, he blamed himself.
"I've just got to make a better play, make a better decision. I knew (Julian Blackmon) was over there, I didn't know he was that tight," Burrow said. "I played well for three quarters and 14 minutes. One bad play."
Joe Mixon's running provided the Bengals with some crucial balance early as he generated 44 yards and one touchdown on 11 first-half carries. But after hurting his right foot in the first quarter, Mixon logged seven carries for only 10 yards in the second half.
Higgins had his most productive game, catching six passes for 125 yards, and A.J. Green re-emerged with eight receptions for 96 yards after getting shut out last week at Baltimore.
The defense recovered a fumble on the Colts' second play and forced two quick punts as the Bengals took control. But by scoring three points after those first four productive possessions, it left the defense unable to keep the pressure on Philip Rivers, and he took full advantage.
It all amounts to another close game that slipped away.
As Baby summed up, "For Cincinnati to get out of this rebuilding phase, it must find ways to win close games. Otherwise, this stage will take much longer than anyone anticipated. ..."
Worth noting. ... After a frustrating seven days, Green had the performance that could jump-start his season. He caught eight of his 11 targets in what was easily his best game since the 2018 season. Green was admittedly frustrated after he failed to look like a seven-time Pro Bowl receiver through the first five games of the season.
The veteran responded with an outing that signals he is building the confidence needed to be a viable receiver for the Bengals the rest of the season. ...
Giovani Bernard extended his league-high streak of consecutive carries without a fumble to 764, dating to 2013. ...
Wide receiver John Ross returned after being inactive for three weeks and played just one snap. Slot receiver Alex Erickson took three plays in place of the nicked Tyler Boyd at the end of the first half. Mixon left in the first half with a right foot injury but returned at the start of the second half.
I'll follow up on Mixon, who did not practice Wednesday, and Boyd if/as needed via Late-Breaking Update. ...
Meanwhile, Ross wants a fresh start.
Ross has requested a trade from the Bengals, NFL Network's Mike Garafolo reported Tuesday. Ross' agent has had talks with the Bengals about a potential deal to send him elsewhere, but those talks didn't go very far, Garafolo added.
The veteran wide receiver is frustrated with his playing time in 2020 after showing flashes of his potential in 2019, Garafolo reported, per Ross' agent Brad Cicala.
Once seen as a big-play threat with rare speed -- record-setting 4.22 40-yard dash speed -- capable of taking the top off opposing defenses, Ross' career has been fraught with injuries since he was selected ninth overall in the 2017 draft. Ross has caught just 51 passes in his career, with a single-season high of 28 (for 506 yards) coming in 2019.
The 2020 season was essentially seen as a make-or-break campaign for Ross, who is in the final year of his rookie deal after Cincinnati declined his fifth-year option ahead of 2020. So far, Ross isn't able to make much of anything without an opportunity to take the field.
With two weeks left until the trade deadline, Cincinnati has some time to potentially work a deal. We'll see if it produces a new home for the former Washington Husky.
QBs: Brandon Allen, Ryan Finley, Joe Burrow
RBs: Giovani Bernard, Samaje Perine, Trayveon Williams, Joe Mixon
WRs: Tyler Boyd, Tee Higgins, A.J. Green, Damion Willis, Alex Erickson, Mike Thomas, John Ross, Auden Tate
TEs: Drew Sample, Cethan Carter, C.J. Uzomah
Cleveland BrownsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 20 October 2020
Baker Mayfield played through an injury Sunday, and it showed in a 38-7 drubbing at the hands of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The degree to which Mayfield was hurt remains unknown. His coach, Kevin Stefanski, told reporters Monday the quarterback was cleared to play, which was enough for Stefanski to send Mayfield out there in a key divisional game.
The results weren't ideal. Mayfield completed 10 of 18 passes for 119 yards and one touchdown, threw two ugly interceptions (including one that was returned for a touchdown by Minkah Fitzpatrick) and never looked even remotely comfortable. Whether it was visible stiffness in his upper body or his skittish nature in the pocket Sunday, Mayfield was far from his best self, begging the question:
Should he have been playing at all?
"I think it's a fair question," Stefanski said. "He was cleared. He was obviously sore throughout the week but got better. It was incumbent upon myself and how we performed to keep him clean, and we didn't do that. He answered the bell last week just in terms of how he went through rehab and fought his butt off to get out there with his teammates on Sunday."
Pittsburgh took full advantage of Mayfield's physical status, bringing rushers from a variety of directions -- registering pressures on 50 percent of Mayfield's 22 dropbacks -- and hitting Browns quarterbacks a total of 13 times. Stefanski replaced Mayfield with backup Case Keenum once it became clear there was little reason to keep him out there.
"I didn't want to see him get hit one more time," said Stefanski, who shouldered much of the blame for Mayfield's ineffective performance. "I know this, I didn't do a good enough job allowing him to be put in [successful] positions. I have to do way better. I can't let him get hit like that."
In all it was an ugly day for Cleveland.
"I think we got away from a lot of things that we were doing to win some ballgames," Stefanski said. "If you don't play clean on the road against a good team, you're not going to come away with a victory."
It's fair to wonder if the Browns might be best-suited to just sit Mayfield against a one-win Bengals team in Week 7, but it sounded as if Stefanski wasn't considering such a scenario.
Mayfield now has 11 career game with multiple interceptions. Only Jameis Winston (13) and Philip Rivers (12) have had more such games since Mayfield entered the NFL in 2018.
"Obviously, not good enough," said Mayfield, when asked how he played in Pittsburgh. "I've got to take care of the ball."
The Steelers pressured (a sack or creating duress) Mayfield on 52 percent of his dropbacks, the highest rate of his pro career, according to ESPN Stats and Info.
Stefanski reiterated that Mayfield would start next Sunday at Cincinnati, provided his ribs allow him to do so.
"As long as he's healthy," Stefanski said, "and I think he will be."
For what it's worth, Mayfield felt better Monday than he did coming out of the Week 5 win over the Colts and is in position to practice more this week as Cleveland prepares for its trip to Cincinnati.
"Baker is sore but he is nowhere near as sore how it was last Monday, so that is a positive," Stefanski said. "I am confident in our medical staff and confident in Baker that he is going to progress each one of these days and then get better."
I'll obviously be following this one closely in coming days; check the Late-Breaking Updates section for more. ...
Meanwhile, in two outings against AFC North rivals Baltimore and Pittsburgh, the Browns have been outscored 76-13. They'll be looking to rectify that against the Bengals. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Receiver Odell Beckham Jr. ultimately wants to win football games. When his team doesn't win, and when he's not involved much in the game, he believes that, if he were more involved, the team would be more likely to win.
On Sunday, the Browns lost and Beckham didn't have much involvement. As a result, he showed frustration on the sideline on multiple occasions during the game, from throwing his helmet to removing his cleats before the game had ended. The Browns understandably downplayed the situation in post-game press conferences, quotes from which were distributed by the team.
"Just normal frustration when you come out and you get beat like that," Stefanski said. "You just have to make sure one [loss] does not turn into two. That is this game, and then we have a big one next week."
As Profootballtalk.com's Mike Florio noted, Stefanski is right. With a trip to Cincinnati looming, the Browns can't afford to let Sunday's outcome linger.
Receiver Jarvis Landry, a close friend of Beckham's, likewise explained that Beckham showing some fire doesn't mean there's a problem.
"We are all invested," Landry said. "I think the thing for us is that we have to figure out a way as a team and as a group. ... He brought us together as a leader of this team there right before halftime and after halftime and just kind of talking and positive messaging. He was trying to get us going because we could not get in any type of rhythm.
"If that is all you guys saw, then that is why I am sure I got the question. ..."
Wide receiver Rashard Higgins caught a touchdown from Mayfield for a second consecutive game. In the doghouse last season, Higgins curiously has been active in only three games this season. But given the chemistry he clearly has with Mayfield, he has demonstrated that he needs to be on the field in three-wide-receiver sets.
Kareem Hunt played 30 of a possible 57 snaps while D'Ernest Johnson got on the field for 17.
The Browns were out-rushed for the first time in 2020 and posted just one double-digit run -- a 10-yarder -- while the game was still in balance. It was a stark contrast to the previous five weeks, when the Browns rose the ranks as the NFL's top rushing team. They finished Sunday with just 75 yards, 29 of which came from Dontrell Hilliard in the fourth quarter.
Pittsburgh entered Sunday's game allowing just 64 rushing yards per contest. The Bengals shouldn't be as much of a challenge this week. ...
Harrison Bryant (21) and David Njoku (23) continued to split reps at the No. 2 TE spot.
That might explain why Njoku has reportedly changed his mind about a trade again.
Njoku requested a trade away from the Browns in July, but rescinded that request in early August after the team opened up training camp. Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that Njoku is again looking for a move to another team.
The trade deadline is November 3.
Njoku spent three weeks on injured reserve after hurting his knee in the opener. He returned in Week 5 and has two catches for 13 yards over the last two games. He played 44 snaps in those games, which puts him well behind Austin Hooper and also Bryant in the pecking order at the position.
On the injury front. ... Mayfield (chest), Landry (hip, ribs), Hunt (ribs) and Njoku (shoulder) were limited in Wednesday's practice.
QBs: Baker Mayfield, Case Keenum
RBs: Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt, D'Ernest Johnson
WRs: Jarvis Landry, Rashard Higgins, Donovan Peoples-Jones, Marvin Hall, Derrick Willies, KhaDarel Hodge, Ja'Marcus Bradley, Odell Beckham
TEs: Austin Hooper, David Njoku, Stephen Carlson, Harrison Bryant
Dallas CowboysCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 20 October 2020
As ESPN.com's Todd Archer reminded readers, the Cowboys pledged that the rest of their 2020 NFL season is about winning for injured quarterback Dak Prescott.
A 38-10 loss to the Arizona Cardinals on Monday Night Football was not what they envisioned.
The 28-point loss tied for the Cowboys' worst at ATandT Stadium, which opened in 2009. It was equaled only by a 37-9 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Nov. 19, 2017. Monday's performance begged the question: How much did Prescott, who is out for the season because of a compound fracture and dislocation of his right ankle that required surgery, cover up with his stellar play to start the season?
Without Prescott, who still leads the NFL in passing, with 1,856 yards, despite not playing five full games, everything for the Cowboys suffered.
Andy Dalton completed 34 of 54 passes for 266 yards and was intercepted twice, though one interception could have been negated by a pass interference penalty. In the first half, Dalton threw for 82 yards, averaging 1.3 air yards per completion, per ESPN Stats and Information. Prescott averaged nearly 7 air yards per completion.
On his first four pass attempts, Dalton was pressured by a Cardinals' defense that was without its best pass-rusher in Chandler Jones. With 5:07 left in the first quarter, Cowboys Pro Bowl right guard Zack Martin suffered a concussion and did not return to the game.
Since the season started, the Cowboys' offense has lost Prescott (ankle), tackles Tyron Smith (neck) and La'el Collins (hip) and tight end Blake Jarwin (knee) for the season. Center Joe Looney is on injured reserve because of a knee injury but is expected to return. The Cowboys lost another starter on their offense against the Cardinals, when Pro Bowl right guard Zack Martin suffered a concussion in the first quarter.
A once-feared offensive line that was the envy of the NFL was reduced to starting two undrafted rookies at tackle (Brandon Knight, 2019, Terence Steele, 2020), a rookie center (Tyler Biadasz), a second-year player (Connor McGovern) with two offensive snaps of experience prior to Monday and a third-year guard coming off knee surgery (Connor Williams).
Somehow, Prescott kept the Cowboys competitive, but his teammates could not rally for him on Monday.
The Cowboys (2-4) are off to their worst start since 2015, when they had to start four different quarterbacks because of a twice broken right collarbone suffered by Tony Romo. They finished that season 4-12 overall. For head coach Mike McCarthy, the 2-4 start is tied for the worst in his coaching career. The Green Bay Packers were 2-4 in 2006, his first season, on their way to an 8-8 finish.
Yet even with Monday's loss, the Cowboys are in first place in the pitiful NFC East, with consecutive division games coming up against the Washington Football Team (1-5) and the Philadelphia Eagles (1-4-1).
But trouble appears to be brewing.
While owner Jerry Jones spent Tuesday lamenting his team's loss and the limitations of roster flexibility, his players stewed.
NFL Network's Jane Slater reported players are starting to let their discontent be known. One player told Slater that McCarthy's staff is "totally unprepared. They don't teach. They don't have any sense of adjusting on the fly."
"They just aren't good at their jobs," another player told Slater.
McCarthy's staff includes defensive coordinator Mike Nolan, who joined him in Dallas after three years as linebackers coach with the New Orleans Saints. He's been under fire for weeks thanks to Dallas' 26th-ranked defense (in terms of yards allowed per game) and league-worst unit in points allowed.
But as NFL.com's Nick Shook suggests, the issues extend beyond Nolan's performance, and now players are anonymously voicing their unhappiness following the Cowboys' fourth loss of the season.
Slater mentioned the staff's insinuations that players might be "improvising" instead of following the coaches' direction, and their general ineptitude was on full display against Arizona, painting a picture of internal dysfunction after just six games together.
"At this point," Shook wrote, "Frankly, Dallas is fortunate to be 2-4. Realistically, the Cowboys were an onside kick blunder on the part of the Atlanta Falcons from being 1-5, and needed a game-winning field goal to beat the previously winless New York Giants in Week 5. Dallas could very easily be 0-6."
Whatever the case, if Dallas doesn't turn things around soon, things could get ugly rather quickly for one of the NFL's most visible franchises.
Next week's visit to Washington is the first of two straight NFC East road games (Philadelphia is the second). Lose both, and Dallas is probably headed for a top 10 pick for the first time since they landed Elliott. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Elliott fumbled on consecutive drives that the Cardinals turned into touchdowns.
In six games, Elliott has lost four fumbles, which is more than all of the league's top-10 rushers combined (three). What's worse is that all four turnovers have been turned into touchdowns by opponents. To compensate for the loss of Prescott, the Cowboys wanted to rely on Elliott.
On Monday, they couldn't count on him.
"I don't think we can use that as an excuse," Elliott said of playing without Prescott. "I'm just going to keep saying it over and over. I started the game out with two fumbles, gave the ball away and that gave them all the momentum they needed to go and take off. I want to say I'm sorry, and this one is one me. I need to be better for this team."
Elliott has never lost two fumbles in a game or more than two fumbles in a season.
"Honestly, I can't really even," Elliott said, not finishing the sentence. "I don't know why. I've got to be better with it."
Elliott stayed on the sideline the next time the Cowboys got the ball after his second fumble, with Tony Pollard replacing him.
"Zeke is our bell cow, and we need to get it right," McCarthy said. "He's part of the plan. He's going to be part of our success. So, we have to get it right. We have to take care of the football. That's for everybody that touches the football on our team."
Elliott finished with a season-low 12 carries and 49 yards and has gone six games without a 100-yard game, the longest stretch without one in his career.
"I think it was me," Elliott said. "I'm supposed to be a guy that this team can rely on. I'm supposed to be a guy that this team can lean on when times get rough. I just wasn't that today. I got us started off to a terrible start. ... I killed our momentum. I can't do that. I can't."
For what it's worth, the Cowboys have 15 giveaways and three takeaways for an NFL-worst minus-12 turnover ratio. ...
Dalton was fortunate that he didn't have at least two more interceptions on several ill-advised throws. One came early, and Arizona linebacker Jordan Hicks was the only remotely close to the ball. He couldn't hang on to the ball, and probably would have scored if he had. Also, the analytics don't look good compared to Prescott on throws without pressure and getting the ball down the field.
Receiver CeeDee Lamb continues to be a steady presence. He's the only rookie since at least 1950 with five or more catches in the first six games of his career after catching seven passes for 64 yards.
In 1996, Patriots receiver Terry Glenn caught five or more passes in his first five games. Four others did in their first four games (Anquan Boldin 2003, Stefon Diggs 2015, DeSean Jackson 2008, Andre Johnson 2003).
For the year, Lamb has 36 catches for 497 yards and two touchdowns. He's on pace for 96 receptions, five short of the rookie record set by Boldin.
Lamb is only ten catches from matching the Cowboys rookie receiving record set by Bob Hayes in 1965. Hayes caught 46 passes, generating 1,003 yards -- an average of 21.8 yards per attempt.
Also, Dalton Schultz is emerging as a bright spot in the passing game. The 6-5, 255-pound tight end continues to make strides as a pass catcher. He is settling in as a key contributor as a chain mover and Dalton's confidence in him showed up early in the game.
Although he finished the night with only four catches for 35 yards, NFL.com's Bucky Brooks believes Schultz's route running and consistent separation from his defenders stood out in the game. If he continues to take advantage of his opportunities as a TE1, he could become a key part of the Cowboys' passing game with so much attention directed towards the trio of playmakers at wide receiver.
QBs: Andy Dalton, Garrett Gilbert, Cooper Rush, Ben DiNucci, Dak Prescott
RBs: Ezekiel Elliott, Tony Pollard, Rico Dowdle
WRs: Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, Michael Gallup, Cedrick Wilson, Noah Brown, Malik Turner
TEs: Dalton Schultz, Blake Bell, Sean McKeon, Blake Jarwin
Denver BroncosCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 20 October 2020
As ESPN.com's Jeff Legwold framed it, "After 17 days, one canceled road trip, multiple schedule changes and a bit of a bumpy ride in the final minutes, the Broncos showed, even considering their frustrations of the past two weeks, that they had made the most of their time. ..."
Legwold went on to report that with Drew Lock back at quarterback, Phillip Lindsay back at running back and a refreshed-looking group, the Broncos had neither punted nor had been flagged for a penalty until the fourth quarter. They got just enough on offense, all on six field goals from Brandon McManus, for an 18-12 victory over the Patriots as the team looked as prepared as coach Vic Fangio had repeatedly promised it would be.
It was McManus' first six field goal game of his career -- he had a five field goal game during the team's playoff run in the 2015 season -- as the Broncos improved to 2-3 after an 0-3 start. It was also the first time in franchise history a kicker had six field goals in a game.
Lindsay rushed for 101 yards on 23 carries in his first game action since leaving Week 1 with a toe injury. Lock, who had not played since leaving Week 2 with a shoulder injury, showed some rust at times -- especially with interceptions on back-to-back possessions in the fourth quarter -- but put a little big-play pop back in the offense.
The game had been rescheduled twice due to positive COVID-19 tests among multiple Patriots players, and the Broncos had not played a game since their Oct. 1 win over the New York Jets. The Broncos had practiced much of those two weeks, while the Patriots' practice schedule was inconsistent.
Next up, Denver returns home to host the Chiefs Sunday.
In looking ahead to what the Broncos need going forward, Legwold offered a two-word suggestion: "More Lindsay."
Lindsay's explosiveness was missed in the offense. While Melvin Gordon, who missed this game with strep throat, did have the team's only 100-yard rushing game over the first four weeks of the season, the Broncos had lacked some consistent impact running the ball.
They came into the game with 24 rushing attempts of no gain of negative yardage in the first four games -- by comparison they had 10 such runs over the first four games last season -- and had often put themselves in difficult second- and third-down situations because of it.
But Lindsay's return certainly helped matters as he was quick to the hole and he found some creases in the Patriots' battered defensive line, especially in the first half.
Meanwhile, Lock had not played since leaving the Week 2 loss to the Steelers with his right (throwing) shoulder injury and at times it showed.
Overall he clearly changed the tenor of the team's offense when he pushed the ball down the field multiple times in the Broncos' first two possessions alone. The Broncos had several drops as well, including a potential touchdown or two, but overall he was most comfortable when getting the ball to Tim Patrick, who had his second 100-yard game of the season.
But Lock didn't reach a 50 percent completion rate -- he was 10 of 24 -- and his two interceptions over the final five minutes of the game, both from deep in Broncos' territory, were potentially crushing decisions.
With Noah Fant, out with an ankle injury, and K.J. Hamler, sidelined by a hamstring injury, unavailable, Patrick led the team with four catches for 101 yards, while tight end Albert Okwuegbunam, who was a teammate of Lock's at Missouri, also had a nice game with two catches for 45 yards in his first action of his career.
Worth noting, Okwuegbunam only played 24 snaps; Jake Butt played 38 and Nick Vannett played 29.
Fant's return from a high ankle sprain should help the Broncos finish drives when they host the Chiefs, but offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur will also have to find ways to get rookie WR Jerry Jeudy (two catches for 32 yards) more involved.
When Hamler returns to the lineup it will give the Broncos more options. But right now, as it was during training camp, their bigger personnel groupings are more productive, especially in the opponent's territory.
Diontae Spencer left the game with a shoulder issue. I'll have more on him as well as on the progress of Gordon, Fant -- both of whom were on the practice field Wednesday -- and Hamler via Late-Breaking Update as the week progresses.
And finally. ... McManus' six field goals on Sunday were the most by any kicker in a single game in Broncos history. With a 52-yarder and 54-yarder, he also tied Justin Tucker for the most games in NFL history with multiple 50-plus yarders. After being named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week after Week 4, McManus earned that same honor again on Wednesday.
QBs: Drew Lock, Brett Rypien, Jeff Driskel
RBs: Melvin Gordon, Royce Freeman, Phillip Lindsay
WRs: Jerry Jeudy, Tim Patrick, K.J. Hamler, Daesean Hamilton, Tyrie Cleveland, Diontae Spencer, Courtland Sutton
TEs: Noah Fant, Nick Vannett, Jake Butt, Albert Okwuegbunam
Detroit LionsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 20 October 2020
As ESPN.com's Michael Rothstein reminded readers, a little over a month ago, D'Andre Swift was walking off the field next to his coach, Matt Patricia. After a promising NFL debut against the Chicago Bears, his day ended in football anguish, dropping a pass in the end zone that could have given the Lions a win.
The question then was how would the rookie second-round pick from Georgia handle it? It was a big moment. The Lions, though, didn't lose faith in him, didn't pull him from the lineup. And on Sunday, in what was really a must-win game against Jacksonville for Detroit's season to remain realistically alive, Swift responded with his best performance as a pro.
"I know that's not me as a player," Swift said, reflecting back to the gaffe against the Bears. "So just going back and showing everybody else that I know that."
There's little question about that now after a 14-carry, 116-yard, two-touchdown performance in a 34-16 win over Jacksonville that was easily his best game as a pro. And it was a game that also further pushed forward an argument Swift should be receiving even more work in Detroit's backfield going forward.
Swift's role has vacillated by the week in Detroit -- some games working in a split-share with Adrian Peterson and other weeks relegated to a pass-catching role with little usage in the run game. Consider entering Sunday, Swift had 12 carries combined over four games -- two fewer than he had Sunday against the Jaguars.
He came close to tripling his yardage total in the first four games of the season. And it wasn't like he was perfect on the day. He had a miscommunication on a pass play with Matthew Stafford that could have grown his day further, too.
"The thing I like about him is that nothing really fazes him," Stafford said. "He made a mistake like that and he just keeps it moving and knows he's going to make plays like that later in the game. He's got a lot of confidence in himself and his teammates.
"We have a lot of confidence in him, really all the guys on this team. Just another big part of it and did a really nice job as a young guy."
He's the team's best pass-catching back. He's also the team's fastest back. Detroit, at the moment, doesn't have a back on the roster who can do what Swift did on his 54-yard run, when he took a sliver of a hole, made one cut and sprinted down the field -- at his fastest going 20.7 miles per hour according to NFL's Next Gen Stats -- for a massive field-flipping gain.
Those are the types of plays Detroit needs from its run game.
Swift's role should grow as the weeks go on. While Patricia wouldn't commit to a larger role for his rookie going forward -- pointing to how he brought Kerryon Johnson along two years ago -- it's clear Detroit needs to find a way to use Swift more.
And using Johnson as an example from his rookie year, after the fifth game of his rookie season, during which Johnson had 12 carries, Johnson then had 12 or more in every game except for one before suffering a season-ending injury against Carolina.
So using that as a bar, it's reasonable to think Swift might end up in a full time-share with Peterson going forward. Peterson didn't have his best game Sunday with 2.7 yards per carry, but he had 15 touches. And this seems like a fair split for a young player they are trying to bring along and an older one they would want to keep fresh.
Patricia wouldn't commit to that, either.
"We're just proud of the guys for winning today," Patricia said. "I'm proud of the guys for doing a great job in winning the game. We're not going to go bigger than that now."
Soon, though, Swift might push the Lions into playing him even more because based on what he did against Jacksonville, all of the elements are there for him to be a three-down force in the backfield.
That could start with a favorable matchup against the Falcons in Atlanta this Sunday. ...
For the record, Swift is the first Lions rookie with at least 100 rushing yards and at least 2 rushing touchdowns in a single game since Hall of Famer Barry Sanders did so twice in 1989. Kenny Golladay added 105 receiving yards in the win for Detroit.
This was the first game in which the Lions had a player with at least 100 rushing yards and a player with at least 100 receiving yards since Reggie Bush and Calvin Johnson in Week 13, 2013 versus the Packers.
Peterson notched his 82nd game with at least one touchdown run, breaking a fourth-place tie with Hall of Famer Walter Payton. He trails Emmitt Smith (117), Marcus Allen (92) and LaDainian Tomlinson (92).
Peterson finished with 40 yards on 15 carries. ...
Meanwhile, it took a dozen seasons, but Stafford has now scored on them all.
With a 1-yard touchdown pass to T.J. Hockenson in the third quarter, the 32-year-old quarterback completed the journey of throwing a TD pass against every other team in the NFL.
Stafford had played Jacksonville twice before in his career, and threw for over 250 yards in each of those games but didn't throw a ball into the end zone. And after two rushing touchdowns by the Lions in the first half, it looked like it might happen again. Then Stafford took three straight throws to the end zone from the 1-yard line, connecting on his third one to be able to say he'd done it against every team except Detroit, the squad he has played for his entire career.
It was the 265th touchdown pass of Stafford's career.
Stafford is the 27th quarterback to achieve the feat, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
One last note. ... Marvin Jones caught 2-of-5 targets for eight yards. As Rotoworld.com notes, Jones, whose season high for yards was 55 back in Week 1, has now been held under 10 in back-to-back games.
Jones (knee) did not practice Wednesday; I'll follow up via Late-Breaking Update as developments warrant.
QBs: Matthew Stafford, Chase Daniel, David Blough
RBs: D'Andre Swift, Adrian Peterson, Kerryon Johnson, Jason Cabinda
WRs: Marvin Jones, Danny Amendola, Mohamed Sanu, Quintez Cephus, Jamal Agnew, Kenny Golladay
TEs: T.J. Hockenson, Jesse James, Hunter Bryant
Green Bay PackersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 20 October 2020
On the wrong end of a final score for the first time this season, the Packers' initial loss of 2020 was perhaps a humbling one and, maybe, a proverbial blessing in disguise.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers piled on 38 straight points to throttle the Packers, 38-10, on Sunday, sounding an alarm for Green Bay that this season won't be quite as easy as the first four weeks were.
"You don't ever want to lose like this," Aaron Rodgers said. "I feel like we needed a little bit of wake-up call this season. I think we needed a kick in the ass a little bit to stop feeling ourselves so much."
Through the first quarter of the season, the Packers (4-1) had risen to the top of the NFL hierarchy, the defense doing its part and the offense rolling on high, having scored at least 30 points in each game and 40 or more twice.
Then Sunday afternoon in Tampa rolled around, a season-low 10 points were had and the Packers were left in the wake of a Buccaneers scoring parade.
Rodgers had been interception-free on his first 156 passes of the season, but on No. 157, he threw one to Bucs safety Jamel Dean. It turned into something even rarer for Rodgers: A pick-six.
Before that play, Rodgers had thrown 6,214 times in his career and only two of those had been intercepted and returned for scores. On his 6,215th throw, it happened for a third time. That's merely one pick-six for every 2,071 throws, but two of them have come at Tampa Bay (the other was his first ever, in 2009).
"That s--- happens," Rodgers said. "I haven't had a lot of those over the years. But the wind was blowing pretty good right to left and like I said, I felt good about the spot. I knew it was tight, we've hit throws like that, but I missed on my spot by probably a foot, or so. And the kid made a good play."
According to ESPN.com's Rob Demovsky, the Bucs' swarming defense pressured Rodgers 12 times, the most anyone has gotten to Rodgers this season. Rodgers went just 2-of-7 for 10 yards with four sacks and a scramble when pressured. Bucs defensive coordinator Todd Bowles blitzed Rodgers 17 times, and Rodgers went 5-of-14 with two sacks and both of his interceptions. It was tied for the most blitzes he has faced over the past two seasons, according to ESPN Stats and Information research.
Rodgers finished 16-of-35 for 160 yards without a touchdown and the two interceptions before head coach Matt LaFleur let Tim Boyle finish the game. Rodgers' passer rating of 35.4 was the second lowest in a game he has started and didn't leave because of injury. His only worse rating was on Dec. 14, 2014, at Buffalo (34.3).
Rodgers dropped to 1-3 against the Bucs at Raymond James Stadium, but at least he came away healthy this time.
While LaFleur didn't subscribe exactly to Rodgers' theory that the Packers' heads had grown a bit too big or that players had been too loose in drinking in their success, he did point out a poor week of practice as a likely culprit.
"I don't want to say that. I will say that our practice this past week was not up to our standard that these guys have developed over the last year and a half," LaFleur said. "That's what happened today. You practice like crap and then you go out and play like crap."
Regardless of the exact details, it's clear from Rodgers and LaFleur's accounts that the Packers weren't prepared as they should've been and they took one on the chin and now find themselves a half-game behind in NFC North with the Bears (5-1) leading the way.
Up ahead is a trip to Houston to play the one-win Texans.
An alarm has been sounded, the Packers have arisen from their bye-week slumber and one can only prognosticate a better week of practice and a better showing next game lie ahead. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Davante Adams caught six of 10 targets for 61 yards in Tampa.
Making his first appearance in nearly a month, Adams led the team in all receiving categories, though that wasn't saying much considering Rodgers managed the above-mentioned 160 yards on the day. Adams registered three catches on the first two drives but struggled as Rodgers' efficacy faded in the face of a ferocious defensive front, leading Adams to finish with modest numbers by his lofty standards.
Adams will draw a favorable matchup against the Texans next Sunday and will look to bounce back in a big way after a rare subpar performance. ...
Robert Tonyan caught 3-of-4 targets for 25 yards. The emerging tight end exited for a short stint during the second quarter and returned in the second half. As Rotoworld.com notes, although his box score doesn't pop, Tonyan's 11.4 percent target share from Rodgers is encouraging given Adams' return to the lineup. ...
The Packers were without Tyler Ervin due to a wrist injury and the versatile running back's absence could be felt on offense.
Through the first four games, Ervin had been a big part of the pre-snap motions and jet sweeps Green Bay has been using to keep defenses on tilt. While the Packers had some success early using running back Aaron Jones in that capacity, Tampa Bay clamped down over the final three quarters.
"I definitely think that complicated some things," said LaFleur of Ervin's absence. "We've got to have a better plan because losing one guy can't have that type of effect on your football team. If it does, then you're probably not doing things the right way.
"So we've got to make sure we again go back to the drawing board as a coaching staff, take a good hard look at everything and make sure that we're asking our players to do things they can do."
Ervin also doubles as the Packers' primary kickoff and punt returner. Second-year receiver Darrius Shepherd filled both of those roles against the Buccaneers, but didn't have a return.
All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari left in the second half with a chest injury and did not return. The Packers finished the game with Rick Wagner at left tackle. They also finished the game without a pair of defensive starters: DT Tyler Lancaster (shoulder) and safety Darnell Savage (quadriceps). Although Bakhtiari couldn't finish the game, LaFleur said the preliminary indication is that it's not a long-term issue.
QBs: Aaron Rodgers, Tim Boyle, Jordan Love
RBs: Aaron Jones, Jamaal Williams, A.J. Dillon, Tyler Ervin
WRs: Davante Adams, Allen Lazard, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Equanimeous St. Brown, Malik Taylor, Reggie Begelton
TEs: Robert Tonyan, Marcedes Lewis, Jace Sternberger, Josiah Deguara
Houston TexansCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 20 October 2020
Although it has been just two games, as Houston Texans interim head coach, Romeo Crennel has shown a desire to be aggressive when trying to put away games.
So when the Texans scored to take a 36-29 lead with 1:50 to go and a chance to make it a two-possession game against an undefeated team, he went for it.
As ESPN.com's Sarah Barshop noted, citing ESPN's win probability calculator, the Texans had a 98.2 percent chance to win if they kicked the extra point, and 98.1 percent chance to win if they went for two.
It didn't work -- quarterback Deshaun Watson's pass to Randall Cobb was incomplete -- and the Titans got the ball back down seven points with 1:45 seconds remaining. Tennessee scored a touchdown with four seconds left and needed only an extra point to force overtime. The Texans lost the coin toss, and the Titans marched down the field, eventually winning 42-36.
"I wanted to go ahead and get the two points," Crennel said. "It felt like that would kind of put it out of reach for them, and if we would have gotten it, we would have been in much better shape. As it turned out, we didn't get it, and then with the touchdown and the extra point they tied it up, and we were in overtime."
Aside from going for two in that situation, Crennel has also been aggressive on fourth down. In Week 5, wide receiver Brandin Cooks caught a touchdown on fourth down that put the game away. On the touchdown that led to the 2-point conversion on Sunday, Crennel went for it on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line instead of settling for a field goal to make it a four-point game.
The Texans have scored a touchdown on fourth down in each of their past three games (two under Crennel, one under Bill O'Brien), including two on Sunday against the Titans. They had two such touchdowns all of last season, according to ESPN Stats and Information research.
After the game, defensive end J.J. Watt was asked if he thought Crennel's call showed a lack of confidence in the defense.
"That's above my pay grade," Watt said.
Watt was then asked if he liked the call to go for two points.
"That's above my pay grade," Watt said. "I don't know what you're supposed to do there. I don't know."
Texans safety Justin Reid said he doesn't "feel bad about it at all."
"We wanted to win the game, and I support that aggressiveness," Reid said. "It worked out for us last week. And had we converted on the 2-point conversion, this would be a totally different conversation."
Despite the overtime loss, what makes this 1-5 team attractive for future coaching candidates?
On Sunday, the talented QB showed once again why his teammates feel they are rarely out of a game. He threw five passes in the first quarter, but then got into a rhythm and put together a strong performance for the second week in a row. He completed 28 of 37 passes for 335 yards and four touchdowns. He now has six games with at least four passing touchdowns since his rookie year in 2017. Only Patrick Mahomes (nine) and Russell Wilson (eight) have more such games during that span, according to ESPN Stats and Information.
As Barshop suggested, it's too late for the Texans to contend in 2020, but they're going to always be competitive and a difficult out with Watson under center. ...
According to Associated Press sports writer Kristie Rieken, the focus this week will be shoring up the run defense before the Packers visit on Sunday. It will be another big test for Houston since Green Bay ranks sixth in the NFL in yards rushing with 139.4 a game and Aaron Jones is tied for third in the NFL with five rushing touchdowns.
He had a season-low 15 yards rushing on Sunday in a loss to Tampa Bay, but could still challenge Houston's struggling run defense after running for a career-high 168 yards in Week 2. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Despite a strong performance from Watson, the Texans continue to struggle to run the ball consistently. David Johnson had another tough game this week after it seemed as if he turned a corner in a Week 5 win over Jacksonville when he had a season-high 96 yards rushing. Johnson has been unable to provide any consistency in the running game in his first season in Houston after being traded from Arizona for DeAndre Hopkins.
He had just 57 yards rushing against the Titans to leave the Texans ranked 31st in the NFL in yards rushing with just 85.8 a game.
Duke Johnson had four carries for nine yards. ...
On a more positive note. ... Watson, top receiver Will Fuller and Houston's new receivers continue to improve each week. Watson had his best game of the season on Sunday, completing 28 of 37 passes for 335 yards and a season-high four touchdowns. Fuller was his favorite option against the Titans, finishing with a season-best 123 yards and a TD for his third 100-yard game this year.
Although he found Fuller a lot, Watson also spread the ball around, completing passes to seven different players and throwing each of his TD passes to a different guy.
With Jordan Akins (ankle, concussion) missing a second-straight game. TE Darren Fells set season highs with six receptions and 85 yards on Sunday after having just four receptions for 78 yards in his previous three games combined. He had a 1-yard touchdown reception on fourth down in the second quarter and his 35-yard reception in the third quarter helped set up another score.
QBs: Deshaun Watson, AJ McCarron
RBs: David Johnson, Duke Johnson, Scottie Phillips, Buddy Howell, Dontrell Hilliard, C.J. Prosise
WRs: Brandin Cooks, Keke Coutee, Chad Hansen, Isaiah Coulter, Damion Ratley, Randall Cobb, Steven Mitchell, Will Fuller
TEs: Jordan Akins, Darren Fells, Kahale Warring
Indianapolis ColtsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 20 October 2020
Philip Rivers never flinched with the Colts facing a 21-0 first-half deficit Sunday.
He went back to work and joined MVP quarterbacks Bert Jones and Peyton Manning in the Indianapolis Colts' record book.
Rivers responded by throwing three touchdown passes, including the 14-yard go-ahead scoring throw to Jack Doyle on the first play of the fourth quarter, leading the Indianapolis Colts to a 31-27 victory over Cincinnati to match the greatest regular-season comeback in franchise history.
"I wasn't feeling any panic," Rivers said. "We'd only run about eight snaps, I think, offensively. So personally what I drew on was, it was early in the game and I drew on 2006 at Cincinnati, my first year starting. We were down 28-7 at the half and came back and won kind of similarly."
Fourteen years later, Rivers found a way to do it again -- marking the fifth time in Colts history and the first on the franchise's home turf. Indy's only larger comeback was a 28-point deficit against Kansas City in the 2013 playoffs.
The last time Indianapolis rallied from such a deep hole was 2003 at Tampa Bay. Indy missed a field goal to force overtime, but the Bucs were called for leaping and then Mike Vanderjagt made the kick. The Colts won in OT. Rivers also has done it twice against the Bengals (1-4-1), who have only blown leads of 21 five times, including a team record 24-point lead in 1979 against the Houston Oilers.
Rivers was sensational: 29 of 44 with 371 yards and one interception. Once he got rolling, the Colts (4-2) kept scoring.
The 38-year old Rivers is the oldest QB to win a game after trailing by at least 21 points since 40-year-old Earl Morrall led the Dolphins to a 34-27 win over the Patriots after trailing 24-0 in Week 14, 1974. Rivers is the oldest QB in NFL history to have at least 3 pass touchdowns and lead his team to a win after trailing by at least 20 points in a game.
Sunday's victory marked the seventh time in franchise history that the Colts have come from 20 points down to win.
The last time the Colts did that was when Andrew Luck led them from 28 points down in the third quarter of the AFC wild-card playoff game against Kansas City in January 2014.
Rivers, who went into Sunday with more interceptions than touchdowns, was at his best in the second quarter when the Colts were getting blown out.
He threw for 235 yards in the second quarter to help get the Colts back in the game. The 235 yards were the third most in any quarter in franchise history, behind just Peyton Manning's 247 yards in 2004 and Dan Orlovsky's 240 yards in 2011.
Going into the bye with a 4-2 record is a lot better than being 3-3 when you consider the Colts just got through the softer part of their schedule.
Things will get tougher for them once they return from the bye.
The Colts still have games against Baltimore (4-1), Green Bay (4-0), Pittsburgh (5-0) and Tennessee (5-0) remaining on their schedule. But next up will be a trip to Detroit on Nov. 1. ...
A few final items here. ... Rivers started his 230th consecutive game, breaking a tie with Bruce Matthews for No. 4 in league history.
According to ESPN.com's Mike Wells, receiver Marcus Johnson put on the type of performance that should make it tough for the Colts to send him back to the practice squad. Johnson, who has shuffled back and forth from the practice squad most of the season, was the Colts' No. 1 receiver against the Bengals, catching five passes for 108 yards.
Depth at receiver has been issue all season for the Colts, as Parris Campbell (knee) and Michael Pittman Jr. (calf) are both out with injuries. But even when they do return -- Campbell's return is up in the air -- Johnson continues to show that he deserves a spot on the weekly active roster.
Jonathan Taylor had 12 carries for 60 yards and four receptions for 55 yards. ... Tight end Burton had four receptions for 58 yards.
Also on the injury front, Pro Bowl linebacker Darius Leonard (groin) missed his second straight game. ... CB Xavier Rhodes and Johnson also were shaken up in the second half but returned.
QBs: Philip Rivers, Jacoby Brissett, Jacob Eason
RBs: Jonathan Taylor, Nyheim Hines, Jordan Wilkins, Marlon Mack
WRs: T.Y. Hilton, Zach Pascal, Michael Pittman Jr., Ashton Dulin, Dezmon Patmon, Parris Campbell
TEs: Trey Burton, Mo Alie-Cox, Jack Doyle
Jacksonville JaguarsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 20 October 2020
As Jaguars.com's John Oehser put it, "There's comparatively little to analyze. ..."
The Jaguars lost to the Detroit Lions, 34-16, at home Sunday afternoon -- their fifth consecutive loss and the fifth consecutive game in which they have allowed 30 or more points.
That's a troubling statistic. Equally troubling is they have trailed by double digits in all five losses. They rallied to nearly beat the Tennessee Titans in a 33-30 Week 2 loss -- but that loss and a Week 1 victory over the Indianapolis Colts are far in the rearview and matter little now.
Oehser went on to note the Jaguars aren't just struggling in recent weeks. They're not coming close.
The reasons are many.
Quarterback Gardner Minshew continues to struggle with soft zone coverage and there continue to be legitimate questions about whether he's the Jaguars' future at quarterback. The running game continues to struggle, partly because the defense continues to struggle enough early in games that offensive coordinator Jay Gruden can't stick with rookie running back James Robinson in the second half.
That's a lot of concerns, and that's the Jaguars' reality right now.
They also continue to fight injuries, with defensive end Josh Allen missing Sunday's game with a knee injury and guard A.J. Cann leaving it with a shoulder injury. Linebacker Myles Jack (ankle), safety Jarrod Wilson (hamstring) and tight end Tyler Eifert (neck) all left with injuries during the after trying to play through them.
Mostly though, they can't stop anybody.
Still, head coach Doug Marrone said he has no plans to fire defensive coordinator Todd Wash, despite the fact the Jaguars have one of the worst defenses in the NFL.
"As long as I'm here and I'm the head coach, yes, he's safe," Marrone said.
The Lions gained 403 yards, including 180 yards on the ground. It's the fourth time in six games the Jaguars' defense has allowed 400 or more yards. And the Lions' 34 points marks the fifth consecutive game this season the defense has allowed 30 or more points, a franchise record and one game shy of tying the league record, per ESPN Stats and Information.
Marrone said Wash and the coaching staff have tried multiple things to fix a defense that is giving up 30.2 points per game, and it's the inability to make plays, and mental lapses, that are causing the problems. He cited the Lions' first two touchdown drives on Sunday as an example.
"I think we all have to get better. I'm going to acknowledge that," Marrone said. "I think when you go talk about changes and things of that nature, I think if you have good options to go to but right now I don't see any options. We've just got to keep working to get these guys better and be able to make some plays and that's what's hurting us. It's not a lack of not trying to changing things, which we have been."
ESPN.com's Mike DiRocco suggests that Marrone, however, might not have a say in the matter if owner Shad Khan decides that changes must be made. His job status is tenuous after the team's 26th loss in 38 games since the Jaguars reached the AFC Championship Game following the 2017 season.
Khan could fire Marrone and Wash, or any combination of assistant coaches.
The Jaguars are definitely players in the Trevor Lawrence sweepstakes.
The 1-3 Lions were the Jaguars' best chance to pick up a victory. Look at the rest of the schedule. This week the Los Angeles Chargers? The Jaguars are 3-12 on the West Coast. Home against a Texans team whose only victory is against ... the Jaguars? Maybe.
But home against Pittsburgh? At Green Bay? At Baltimore? At Minnesota?
The Jaguars entered the weekend with the third-best chance of earning the No. 1 overall pick in the ESPN Football Power Index behind both New York teams. Then they got routed by a Lions team that had blown double-digit leads in three of its first four games and led by a coach possibly on the verge of getting fired.
And DiRocco agrees with Oehser, advising his readers it's become clear over the past month that Minshew is not developing into the franchise quarterback the Jaguars had hoped. Since completing 95 percent of his passes and throwing for three TDs and no interceptions in the season opener, Minshew has thrown eight TD passes and five interceptions -- with five of the TD passes coming when the Jaguars were trailing by double digits.
He's still struggling in the pocket and hasn't been as accurate with his downfield passes, which had been one of his strengths. In fairness, there's a lot of pressure on him and the offense to keep up with a defense that struggles to stop anyone, but franchise QBs are able to deal with that and, at times, thrive.
Most expect Lawrence to be that guy -- and the Jaguars look like they could end up in position to get him. ...
Meanwhile, Marrone did not provide the same kind of assurances for Minshew that he did for Wash.
Minshew was 25-of-44 for 243 yards, a touchdown and an interception in the loss and Marrone was asked after the game if he considered making a change at quarterback.
The coach said he didn't, but stopped short of ruling out a move at some point down the line.
"Maybe in the future, I think," Marrone said. "I mean, I'd be naive not to say [that's a possibility]. That's up for any position, any play that we can do for ourselves to get better. But no, I didn't feel that way during the course of the game."
Minshew has turned the ball over eight times during Jacksonville's five-game losing streak and most of his eight touchdowns over that span have come when the Jaguars were far behind their opponents. Marrone has benched starting quarterbacks in each of the last two seasons and continued production like the Jags have seen recently could make it three in a row. ...
A theory bandied about in recent weeks was that the solution to the Jaguars' struggles was simply using rookie running back James Robinson more. On Sunday, the Jaguars tried to establish the run against the NFL's 32nd-ranked run defense. He rushed for 21 yards on eight first-half carries and 29 yards on 12 carries for the game.
When teams are stacking the box and bringing safeties down against the run, you must be able to throw to win.
After surprising many as an undrafted free agent early in his career (2017 and early 2018), Keelan Cole struggled late in 2018 and early 2019. He started to show good signs late last season and has emerged this season as a very good third receiver. His six-reception, 143-yard performance Sunday marked the second-most yards of his career and his fourth 100-yard game -- his first since the Jaguars' Week 2 victory over New England in 2018.
D.J. Chark caught 7-of-14 targets for 45 yards. Despite heading into the game listed as questionable with an ankle injury, Rotoworld.com notes that Chark ended up setting a new season high for targets by five even as Cole dominated the production. Laviska Shenault caught 3-of-7 targets for 10 yards.
Eifert wasn't targeted before aggravating his neck injury.
The Jaguars have missed at least one kick -- a field goal or PAT -- in every game this season.
On Sunday it was Jon Brown, who had never attempted a field goal or PAT in a game at any level. He hit a 31-yard field goal in the first quarter -- which allowed the Jaguars to set an NFL record by having five different players attempt a field goal or PAT in five consecutive weeks -- but missed a 32-yard attempt in the second quarter.
Marrone said earlier in the week he hoped Josh Lambo has been designated to return from injured reserve. He could play against his former team.
QBs: Mike Glennon, Gardner Minshew, Jake Luton
RBs: Dare Ogunbowale, Devine Ozigbo, Ryquell Armstead, Chris Thompson, James Robinson
WRs: D.J. Chark, Keelan Cole, Laviska Shenault, Collin Johnson, Chris Conley, Michael Walker, Dede Westbrook
TEs: Tyler Eifert, James O'Shaughnessy, Tyler Davis, Josh Oliver
Kansas City ChiefsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 20 October 2020
To get the Chiefs back in the win column after their first defeat in 11 months, head coach Andy Reid turned his playbook upside down in Monday night's game against the Buffalo Bills.
For only the second time in Patrick Mahomes' 37 career starts, the Chiefs ran the ball more than they passed it. They were rewarded for the change with a 26-17 victory.
The Chiefs rushed for 245 yards on Monday, their most since 2012. Rookie Clyde Edwards-Helaire led the way with 161 yards.
Kansas City also had 46 rushes, the most attempts by any Reid-coached team, according to ESPN Stats and Information research. (Reid coached the Philadelphia Eagles for 14 seasons before becoming the Chiefs' coach in 2013.)
Mahomes was still efficient, going 21-of-26 with two first-half touchdown passes to Travis Kelce. But Mahomes threw for only 225 yards on a rainy night in Buffalo.
But days after signing veteran back Le'Veon Bell to provide an offensive spark, the running game was the star even without Bell.
He can't join the Chiefs until later this week because of COVID-19 testing protocols.
So why add Bell to the equation?
"We don't turn away good players and he's a good one," Reid told reporters postgame Monday. "It's exciting to have him around and we'll see how he does."
The coach added: "He's got to get in the playbook and learn everything but he's a pretty smart kid and has been doing it a long time so I don't think he'll have a problem with that."
According to FOXSports insider Jay Glazer, Reid told him that Bell was added to "take just some of the reps but not become their starter."
As Glazer put it, Reid does not want Bell to "take the plays of my little guy," referring to Edwards-Helaire and perhaps offering a real clue.
Indeed, Bell could help the Chiefs run the ball better in goal-line and short-yardage situations. Edwards-Helaire has been a failure in those areas. The Chiefs have one rushing touchdown from a running back this season, that being supplied by Edwards-Helaire on a 27-yard run in Week 1 against the Houston Texans.
Since then, the Chiefs have scored rushing touchdowns on only scrambles by Mahomes (twice) or when they hand the ball to wide receiver Tyreek Hill (once).
Things were so bad in short yardage the Chiefs twice on fourth-and-1 plays felt they had to hand the ball to fullback Anthony Sherman and once to third-string back Darwin Thompson, but never to Edwards-Helaire.
Beyond needing a short yardage running back, the Chiefs needed depth at the position. They almost always do. In 2015, 2017, 2018 and 2019, their featured back at the start of the season wasn't a factor by the end. Whether it was Jamaal Charles or Spencer Ware getting injured, Kareem Hunt getting released or LeSean McCoy getting benched, the Chiefs were forced to dig into their depth at an important position in Andy Reid's offensive system.
Often, they thrived while doing so. With McCoy inactive for last season's Super Bowl, Damien Williams was a star with two fourth quarter touchdowns and more than 100 yards rushing.
Before signing Bell, the Chiefs had little in the way of experience at running back. Edwards-Helaire has played in six NFL games. Damien Williams opted out of the season before it started because of COVID-19 concerns. None of the backups, including Thompson, Darrel Williams or DeAndre Washington, have ever been a featured back for an extended period of time.
Through that lens alone, this was a move the Chiefs had to make.
They had no proven insurance for Edwards-Helaire, himself still something of an unknown. Nothing against any of the backups, but none of them are Bell. ...
We'll get our first look at the backfield rotation in Denver on Sunday, but I'll be watching for more on the possibilities all week long; check the Late-Breaking Updates section for more. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Mahomes became the fastest player in the NFL's Super Bowl era to 90 career touchdown passes in Monday's game.
Monday's game was his 37th. Former Miami Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino had been the fastest to 90 touchdown passes. He did it in 40 games.
The Chiefs played most of the game without two starting offensive linemen. Guard Kelechi Osemele tore tendon in each of his knees in last week's game while tackle Mitchell Schwartz left the game for good in the first half with a back injury. He has the longest active streak among offensive linemen and third longest among offensive players.
Sammy Watkins did not play after hurting his hamstring last week. The initial reporting was a multiple week absence was coming; watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more on that as well.
One last note here. ... Harrison Butker has struggled since kicking multiple 50-yard field goals in a win over the Chargers. He hit both of his field-goal attempts against the Bills, but he also missed an extra point for the third time in four games.
QBs: Patrick Mahomes, Chad Henne
RBs: Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Le'Veon Bell, Darrel Williams, Darwin Thompson
WRs: Tyreek Hill, Mecole Hardman, Demarcus Robinson, Marcus Kemp, Byron Pringle, Sammy Watkins
TEs: Travis Kelce, Deon Yelder, Nick Keizer
Las Vegas RaidersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 20 October 2020
According to ESPN.com's Paul Gutierrez, the bye week arrived at the perfect time for the Las Vegas Raiders. Unless it has not.
On one hand, the Raiders were coming off their biggest win since 2016, their only winning season since 2002, and would have no doubt liked to ride that momentum rather than shut things down for a week.
On the other, taking a break after upsetting the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium gave the Raiders' lengthy list of walking wounded a chance to heal up and, after a 3-2 start, gear up for a potential run to the postseason.
"Yeah, I'm not a big fan of the bye weeks, I never really have been," head coach Jon Gruden said with a sly grin Monday. "I like to keep playing. I like to play doubleheaders, sometimes. But, it is part of the schedule, as you know.
"So, in some ways it will get Trent Brown an additional couple days to respond to his first game. We're hoping Richie Incognito can come back, obviously Maurice Hurst, Maliek Collins, Damon Arnette, Bryan Edwards. We got a lot of guys that are still on the mend. So, I'll take this bye week. This year. At this time."
For those of you keeping score at home, that's a right tackle, a left guard, two defensive tackles, a cornerback and a receiver on the shelf with (checks notes) calf, Achilles, COVID-19, shoulder, thumb and ankle issues, respectively.
Brown will almost certainly sit out this week, however, after he was placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list Wednesday.
Cornerback Damon Arnette was placed on the list earlier this week.
Tom Pelissero of NFL Media reports that contact tracing is underway and notes that the Raiders had one positive case in their latest round of testing. The team has not been together much of late thanks to the bye and they were set to practice as scheduled on Wednesday.
Assuming all continues to be clear on the testing front, there shouldn't be any need to change plans for Sunday's home game against the Buccaneers.
Getting to the bye, then, with a winning record after a brutal start -- which included cross-country trips to Carolina and New England and home games against the New Orleans Saints and Buffalo Bills -- is cause for pride.
Coming off the bye, the Raiders hope to regain their momentum quickly; especially on offense.
Clearly the strength of the team when healthy -- how much more imposing was quarterback Derek Carr when he had the speed and strength of rookie receiver Henry Ruggs III and Brown, respectively, at his disposal? -- the Raiders clicked on all cylinders in dropping 40 points on the defending Super Bowl champs in Week 5.
Carr looks in complete command of Gruden's offense in this, his third season at the helm.
Carr is completing passes at a league-best 73.1 percent clip and is on pace for a 4,614 passing yards with 35 touchdowns and three interceptions. Not bad for a guy who many saw as not only being challenged by Marcus Mariota by the bye, but being replaced by him then.
Then there's second-year running back Josh Jacobs, who went into Week 6 leading the league in rushing attempts (106), is second in rushing yards (377) and is being mentored by a Hall of Famer (Marcus Allen).
While Jacobs has been dealing with a lingering hip injury throughout the year, the Raiders offense is looking to get backup running back Devontae Booker more involved moving forward to keep No. 28 healthy. Booker has also been productive with the carries he's seen this season, running for 62 yards on seven carries in the win against the Chiefs.
"We knew all along we got a player who complemented our room extremely well," said running backs coach Kirby Wilson of Booker. "We just had to figure out a way of, how do we implement him by at the same time keeping our best football player getting most of the work."
"We think we're on a really good pace right now to do that moving forward -- it just took a little while to figure out as the positions coach."
Twelve different players have caught passes from Carr and tight end Darren Waller is not only his security blanket but a future Pro Bowler, as he leads all NFL tight ends with 34 catches. Ruggs missed two games with hamstring and knee issues but showed the deep threat potential as what the Raiders hope is a James Jett/Cliff Branch hybrid while veteran Nelson Agholor already has three TDs in his 10 catches.
But it all starts in the trenches, with center Rodney Hudson as the anchor.
If Incognito is able to come back from his Achilles' injury and Brown stays upright, the Raiders' offense will be something to watch heading into a tough matchup against a Buccaneers defense that just held Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense in check. ...
One last note here. ... One missed PAT aside, kicker Daniel Carlson has been money, showing that he is indeed worthy of Gruden's trust. Or did you miss Gruden sending Carlson, who missed seven of 26 field-goal attempts last season, out to attempt a career-long 54-yarder with a seven-point lead late against the Saints in Week 2 to seal the win?
He made it.
Carlson is 11 for 12 on his field-goal attempts, including all three from 50-plus yards. ...
Marcus Mariota is ready to return as Carr's backup.
Mariota has been designated for return from the Raiders' practice squad. He'll presumably move ahead of Nathan Peterman on the depth chart as the No. 2 quarterback in Las Vegas.
Finally. ... The Raiders officially signed defensive lineman David Irving to their practice squad. Irving had been suspended from the NFL for the last year and a half but was reinstated last week.
QBs: Derek Carr, Marcus Mariota, Nathan Peterman
RBs: Josh Jacobs, Devontae Booker, Jalen Richard
WRs: Henry Ruggs III, Nelson Agholor, Hunter Renfrow, Bryan Edwards, Zay Jones, Tyrell Williams
TEs: Darren Waller, Jason Witten, Foster Moreau, Derek Carrier
Los Angeles ChargersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 20 October 2020
As Associated Press sports writer Joe Reedy noted, Justin Herbert has accomplished plenty during his first four NFL starts. But he still hasn't done the one thing that ultimately defines quarterbacks -- lead his team to victory.
The Los Angeles Chargers rookie has a 68.8 percent completion rate and 107.1 passer rating, which are the highest since the merger for a rookie QB with a minimum of 100 attempts.
Statistically, he has held his own with former MVPs Patrick Mahomes, Tom Brady and Drew Brees on the opposite sideline in three games, only to see them lead comebacks from double-digit deficits.
With Los Angeles' bye moved to this past week, Herbert -- the Chargers' first rookie starting QB in 22 years -- was hoping to rest up while reviewing past games.
"It's a good time for almost all of our guys to get their bodies back," he said.
Head coach Anthony Lynn was hoping Tyrod Taylor could serve as the bridge quarterback while Herbert developed, but Herbert quickly asserted himself when he got the chance to start. Taylor was sidelined when a botched injection caused him to suffer a punctured lung before the Sept. 20 game against Kansas City.
Lynn said prior to the Week 5 game in New Orleans that Herbert would remain the starter when Taylor returned. Taylor has resumed practicing but remains inactive. Lynn said he has noticed more confidence from Herbert now that he knows the job is his.
"He's not looking over his shoulder. I think he is more vocal and he's the quarterback he has to be," Lynn said. "In time, that leadership and all that will come, but I like I like what he's doing right now."
So far with the Chargers, Herbert has become the first player in 64 years to rush and pass for a touchdown in the first half of his first start and is the first rookie to pass for four TD's in a Monday night game. Los Angeles, though, has lost four straight and is off to its second 1-4 start in Lynn's four seasons.
Turnovers played a major role in the first three losses. Herbert had an interception late in the third quarter against Kansas City that the Chiefs converted into a tying touchdown before they won 23-20 in overtime. Herbert had a fumble and interception during the first half against Carolina that led to 10 points in a 21-16 loss. Against Tampa Bay, a botched handoff late in the first half allowed the Bucs to score a TD before halftime and gave them momentum that resulted in a 38-31 victory.
Herbert has dealt with numerous lineup changes due to injuries. Right tackle Bryan Bulaga has missed the past two weeks due to back issues and right guard Trai Turner has played in only one game because of a groin injury. Running back Austin Ekeler, who led the AFC in scrimmage yards through the first three weeks, suffered a hamstring strain Oct. 4 at Tampa Bay and is on injured reserve.
Wide receivers Keenan Allen and Mike Williams have also missed time. Allen played only one quarter against New Orleans before experiencing back spasms and Williams was out for the Tampa Bay game.
Lynn told reporters on Wednesday that Allen "will work his way back to practice today." He says Allen isn’t at 100 percent yet.
I'll be following up on Allen as developments warrant in coming days via Late-Breaking Update.
Herbert has shown poise when facing blitzing defenses. He is 22 of 32 for 353 yards with four touchdowns and a 144.9 rating against the blitz. The only rookie to have a better rating over his first four starts since 2007 was Washington's Robert Griffin III in 2012 (155.8).
"I think footwork has been huge, along with being able to pick up on the five- and seven-step drops along with play-action stuff," Herbert said. "I'm just trying to have fun. Just go out there, play and relax."
Meanwhile, for a team that didn't have a player opt out due to the coronavirus and hasn't had someone test positive during the season, the Chargers had their schedule disrupted the most.
Five of their next six weeks were rescheduled by the NFL with the bye moving to this week from mid-November. Even with the switches, Los Angeles will have a favorable stretch with four of its next five opponents under .500, beginning on Sunday against Jacksonville.
"We just know that there's going to be change. Just the way it is," Lynn said.
Running back Justin Jackson said a bye week now allows for a reset.
"We still believe this team could be 5-0 right now," he said. "We'll get everybody fresh and make a run."
One last note here. ... Asked on Wednesday about Ekeler's progress, Lynn the running back will be back "later rather than sooner."
Lynn called Ekeler's injury "very serious."
QBs: Justin Herbert, Tyrod Taylor, Easton Stick
RBs: Austin Ekeler, Kalen Ballage, Justin Jackson, Joshua Kelley, Troymaine Pope
WRs: Mike Williams, Jalen Guyton, Tyron Johnson, Joe Reed, K.J. Hill, Jason Moore, Keenan Allen
TEs: Hunter Henry, Stephen Anderson, Virgil Green
Los Angeles RamsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 20 October 2020
As Associated Press sports writer Josh Dubow noted, the Los Angeles Rams proved they can dominate the NFL's worst division with four wins over the hapless NFC East.
If they want to truly be a contender they will need to raise their game so they can compete with the tougher competition they will see the rest of the way.
The Rams fell short in that regard on Sunday night as Jared Goff and the offense struggled to get into any kind of rhythm and missed tackles doomed the defense in a 24-16 loss to the NFC West rival San Francisco 49ers.
"I'd rather we lost every other game we did, but win this division game," star defensive tackle Aaron Donald said. "That means a lot more. So we've just got to do better. That's not the way we play. That's not the way we coach to play. That's on us as players, coaches. We've just got to do better overall as a team."
The Rams (4-2) are off to a solid start this season but questions remain about how good they truly are considering their only wins came against Dallas, Philadelphia, Washington and the Giants, who are a collective 2-14-1 when playing outside the division.
The Rams, on the other hand, have lost both times they have played outside the NFC East, falling 35-32 at Buffalo in Week 3 and then again to the Niners.
While the defense struggled against the Niners all night long, the offense had its own issues with Goff unable to get into a groove, going 19 for 38 for 198 yards, two TDs and one interception.
He especially had issues getting the ball to his top two wideouts Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods. Goff missed an open Kupp on a deep pass and Kupp dropped another in the end zone. Goff was 7 for 19 for 40 yards targeting those two players.
"Clearly wasn't my best," Goff said. "Just some uncharacteristic stuff. Something that I've never done in my life, and don't expect to ever repeat. Just got to be a little bit better there, being a little more accurate. That's probably what I do best is accuracy, and it probably would have put us in a little better situation there, give us a better chance to win."
The Rams failed to capitalize on two key drives in the second half that ended up proving costly. They settled for a field goal on the opening drive of the third quarter when Andrew Whitworth was called for a false start in the red zone on third-and-1.
Then they drove down to the 1 later in the third before Darrell Henderson was hit for a 1-yard loss on second down, Kupp dropped a pass in the end zone on third down and then Goff was intercepted by Jason Verrett on fourth down.
"It was man coverage, and he made a great play," Goff said. "I thought Verrett played a really good game, and it was a really great play by him. He fell off his coverage and came up underneath the ball and made a great play."
Kupp's failed catch was the first Rams drop in the end zone since Week 5 of 2017. An example of their mastery in these situations came on Goff's 10-yard touchdown pass to Woods against the Niners, which had a completion probability of 27 percent, according to Next Gen Stats. This was the lowest completion probability on a receiving touchdown for the Rams this season.
Goff managed to connect on a 40-yard TD pass to Josh Reynolds with 3:24 left but the Rams couldn't get the ball back and lost.
"For some reason, sometimes you're just off," Whitworth said. "Today was one of those days we were off a little bit. ... Too many missed opportunities really just all day long to me. It's one of those things where you know you hurt yourself the entire day, and I think that's the part that's most frustrating."
Next up, the Rams host Chicago on Monday Night Football. ...
One last note here. ... Kicker Samuel Sloman's extra point attempt after Goff's 10-yard TD pass to Woods in the second quarter was blocked by Dion Jordan. That is the third missed PAT this season for Sloman, tied with Kansas City's Harrison Butker for the most in the NFL. Sloman is 7-of-9 on field goals and 15-of-18 on extra points. The last Rams kicker to miss three extra points in a season was Mike Lansford in 1988.
Given all that, it should come as no surprise to see the Rams have added a second kicker to their active roster.
The team announced the signing of veteran Kai Forbath on Tuesday. Forbath had been on the Bears practice squad.
Forbath also spent time on Carolina's practice squad in September and has had stints with the Cowboys, Patriots, Jaguars, Vikings, Saints, Buccaneers, and Washington over the last 10 years. Forbath has made 86.8 percent of his field goals and 93.8 percent of his extra points over the course of his career.
The Rams opened a roster spot by placing linebacker Obo Okoronkwo on injured reserve. He's expected to miss more than a month after elbow surgery.
QBs: John Wolford, Jared Goff
RBs: Cam Akers, Malcolm Brown, Raymond Calais, Xavier Jones, Darrell Henderson
WRs: Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, Josh Reynolds, Van Jefferson, Nsimba Webster, Trishton Jackson
TEs: Tyler Higbee, Gerald Everett, Johnny Mundt, Brycen Hopkins
Miami DolphinsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 20 October 2020
As ESPN.com's Cameron Wolfe noted, 20 months ago, the Dolphins picked Brian Flores to lead a daunting rebuild. Fast forward to Sunday's 24-0 victory over the New York Jets, and it's becoming clear that the Dolphins made the right decision.
Miami's turnaround is flourishing while Adam Gase, the coach the Dolphins fired and the Jets immediately hired, is watching his team crumble and his job security loosen more every week.
The Dolphins (3-3) won back-to-back games by double digits for the first time since 2015, and even without playing their best football they beat down their wounded division rival. That's what good teams do, and for the first time in the Flores era, it's time to start asking: Are the Dolphins. ... Good?
A .500 winning percentage is the high-water mark for the Dolphins' second-year coach, which merely reinforces his belief they can become even better than average.
"There are a lot of things we can improve on," Flores said. "Really that's where my focus is -- just to get this team better. We've got a long season ahead of us."
Reshuffling of the NFL schedule because of coronavirus outbreaks elsewhere pushed the Dolphins' bye to this week, and their next game will now be Nov. 1 at home against the Los Angeles Rams.
And when they hit the field for that game, Tua Tagovailoa will be their starting quarterback.
The off week gives the rookie extra preparation time.
Tagovailoa's first NFL start will come 351 days after he suffered a dislocated right hip and posterior wall fracture. It has been a remarkable recovery from an injury that some thought could derail his ability to play high-level football again.
The move comes as a bit of a surprise because of the timing. Veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick had been playing well, leading the Dolphins to two consecutive wins by a combined score of 67-17.
When asked why now one source simply told NFL Network's Tom Pelissero "it's just time."
Wolfe added: "They believe Tagovailoa is their franchise quarterback -- the one to lead them to being a consistent championship contender."
That's a standard the Dolphins haven't had since Dan Marino was their starting quarterback.
Tagovailoa saw his first NFL action Sunday in a blowout win over the New York Jets. He went 2-for-2 for 9 yards while playing just five snaps, but he showed his mobility while rolling out on a pass to the left and gave the Dolphins coaching staff a small glimpse of how he can lead an offense.
"Oh gosh, yes, you go out there and you look at it -- he got under duress and made an accurate throw. He sat in the pocket on third down and made a throw for a first down," offensive coordinator Chan Gailey said. "Those are positives. Those are real positives. For a guy that hasn't played a snap, those are real positives."
Tagovailoa will be the 22nd quarterback to start for the Dolphins since Marino retired in 2000. None of the previous 21 made a Pro Bowl appearance; none led the team to a playoff win in nearly 20 years.
During the offseason, Fitzpatrick said he knew he was the "placeholder" for Tagovailoa and would be the young quarterback's mentor and biggest cheerleader whenever the time came for him to pass the keys to the offense.
The six-game wait was important for Tagovailoa, who asked plenty of questions and soaked up insight from Fitzpatrick and Gailey as he tried to catch up on what he missed during a shortened offseason. Coaches have raved about his growth from the start of training camp to where he is now six weeks into the regular season.
Fitzpatrick was named the Week 1 starter without any set timeline on how long he would stay in this role, and he certainly had some peaks, including a 350-yard, three-touchdown performance in a Week 5 blowout win over the San Francisco 49ers. In six games, Fitzpatrick completed 70.1% of his passes for 1,535 yards, 10 touchdowns and seven interceptions.
At 3-3, the Dolphins still have hopes of making a playoff push.
Tagovailoa provides more mobility, accuracy and playmaking ability to the offense, even if he doesn't have as strong of a grasp on it as Fitzpatrick does.
Tagovailoa becomes the third rookie quarterback to start a game this season, after the Cincinnati Bengals' Joe Burrow and Los Angeles Chargers' Justin Herbert. He also becomes the first left-handed NFL quarterback since Kellen Moore retired in 2017 and the first to play in a game since Michael Vick in 2015.
For Tagovailoa -- a player with the prestige to already have a documentary on national TV, a high-selling NFL jersey and support from some of the biggest stars in Miami sports history -- expectations couldn't be higher.
He could be the Dolphins' biggest star since Marino.
Tagovailoa believes he was destined for this moment, and he says he's ready to take advantage of it.
Meanwhile, the Dolphins are starting to play defense at a level that will help the young QB as well.
Miami ranks third in the NFL in points allowed per game at 18.8, a dramatic improvement from last year's 30.9, when they surrendered the most points in franchise history.
They've held two consecutive opponents to less than 150 yards passing for the first time since 2010. They lead the league in third-down defense at 31 percent, including the Jets' 2 for 17.
Newcomer Emmanuel Ogbah has revitalized the pass rush with five sacks, and Xavien Howard is tied for the NFL lead with four interceptions -- one in each of the past four games
"Ball finds me, man," Howard said.
The bye provides extra time to mend for receiver DeVante Parker (groin), linebackers Andrew Van Ginkel (concussion) and Kamu Grugier-Hill (hand), and defensive tackle Raekwon Davis (shoulder). All were hurt in Sunday's game. ...
For what it's worth. ... Wolfe is buying Myles Gaskin's best performance as a Dolphin, totaling a season-high 91 rushing yards on a 5.1-yards-per-carry average combined with 35 receiving yards. Gaskin became the first Dolphins running back with over 100 scrimmage yards since Kalen Ballage in December 2018.
After a week when the Dolphins aggressively tried and failed to sign Le'Veon Bell, Gaskin's performance is his way of telling the team that he's the right man for the job. ...
Mike Gesicki failed to catch either of his two targets against the Jets. Meanwhile, as Rotoworld.com pointed out, both Adam Shaheen and Durham Smythe caught four-yard touchdowns. Gesicki has a pair of big games to his name this season, but has four duds under his belt, too. He's been extremely frustrating considering the number of routes he's run through six weeks.
The Dolphins haven't had a COVID-19 case since August, and they'll face the challenge of continuing that streak through the bye week.
"Distancing, masks, not being in large groups -- those are the things we harp on," Flores said, "especially during a bye week when we're not going to be in the facility every day, and they won't be on their normal routine. We have to be smart as a team. I think they all understand that. ..."
One last note here. ... After the game, Tagovailoa returned to the field, sitting down at the middle of the 15-yard line alone in full uniform for about 10 minutes soaking in the moment.
He tried to find the spot where his Dolphins drive ended and then FaceTimed his parents, who couldn't be there to see him play. They watch almost every game, and he wanted to share the moment with him. He said the conversation was emotional particularly because of everything it took for him to get back on that field.
"The biggest thing that really stands out to me is just being able to make my parents proud," Tagovailoa said. "Whether that's Tua as a football player, Tua as a person, Tua as a son, I think that's what brings me the most joy is seeing how happy my parents get and then seeing how happy my family gets, as well, with who I am and also what I do."
Now, of course, we'll all see more of that starting next week.
QBs: Tua Tagovailoa, Ryan Fitzpatrick
RBs: Myles Gaskin, Salvon Ahmed, Matt Breida, DeAndre Washington, Patrick Laird
WRs: DeVante Parker, Jakeem Grant, Lynn Bowden Jr., Malcolm Perry, Isaiah Ford, Mack Hollins, Preston Williams
TEs: Mike Gesicki, Adam Shaheen, Durham Smythe, Michael Roberts
Minnesota VikingsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 20 October 2020
As NFL.com's Kevin Patra reminded readers, the last time the Minnesota Vikings started 1-5, Leslie Frazier was fired as head coach in the offseason, and Mike Zimmer took over.
In order to keep history from repeating, quarterback Kirk Cousins, who threw three INTs for the second time this season in a 40-23 loss to the previously winless Atlanta Falcons, knows he must quit turning the ball over.
"The reality is if the pace I'm on in terms of the interceptions, if that were to continue, I won't finish the season," Cousins told Courtney Cronin of ESPN. "I won't -- you know what I mean? There's a little bit of, you got to improve. Whether it's them telling me, 'Hey, we gotta improve,' or them pulling me; we got to get better. That's what the rest of the season will be about for me, is trying to protect the football as best I can. Because when you turn the ball over, it really hurts your chances to win. I know that. I just need to improve as we look ahead to the rest of the season."
Sean Mannion is the only other QB currently on the Vikings roster.
Cousins' three-INT day was the fifth time he's thrown three or more interceptions in a game during his career. Two of those instances have come in 2020 (Week 2 at Indianapolis).
Through six games, Cousins already has 10 INTs. Last year he had six total in 15 starts. His career-high is 13 in 2017 with Washington in 16 games. Cousins' current pace would put him at 26.6 interceptions for a full slate.
"I need to correct it," Cousins said. "I need to finish the season with a different story, regarding the interceptions, so that's something I need to improve with the remaining games we have. I don't know that I'd limit it to the interceptions. I think it's just the entire offensive performance. It's just, I need to be better, we need to be better."
Cousins finished the game having completed 24 of 36 passes for 343 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions.
The turnovers wiped away any chance the Vikings had to keep the floundering Falcons from having life. The issues started from the first play from scrimmage, on which Cousins tried to fit a pass to rookie Justin Jefferson, who was surrounded by four defenders. Linebacker Deion Jones dropped into the zone for the relatively easy pick.
"I thought the first one was the worst one, if you will," Cousins said of his three interceptions. "First play of the game, and the coverage was not confusing. It was just a zone drop, and I simply forced the football into coverage, tried to do too much. That's a mistake I may have made in Year 1, but I'm disappointed that I would do that now."
Cousins' rookie mistakes have cost the Vikings big this season.
As the Vikings head into their Week 7 bye with a 1-5 record, the worst start in Minnesota since 2013, the opportunity for introspection and potential changes is on the minds of many within the franchise.
"I think that's something we need to look at here starting tomorrow when we get back in and figure out where we're at, where we plan on going and kind of go from there," Zimmer said. ...
Also of interest. ...Justin Jefferson had 166 receiving yards in the Vikings' loss on Sunday, his third game in the last four with at least 100 receiving yards. Jefferson has 537 receiving yards this season, breaking Hall of Famer Randy Moss franchise record (since at least the 1970 merger) for most receiving yards in a player's first 6 career games (Moss had 527 in 1998).
Jefferson is also the second player in NFL history with 500 or more receiving yards through his first five career games.
Jefferson caught nine passes for 166 yards and two touchdowns on 11 targets, pushing his yardage through his first six games to a Vikings rookie record of 537.
Jones finished with eight receptions for 137 yards and two scores on 10 targets.
According to Next Gen Stats, Jefferson's top speed of 20.64 mph on his 35-yard reception ranked as the eighth-fastest by a ball carrier through Sunday's games.
As for his 49-yard touchdown catch, Jefferson traveled 54.1 yards (18th-longest) and delivered 27 yards after the catch, which was 17 yards above what was expected (fifth-greatest above expected).
And one last note. ... Alexander Mattison finished with a meager 26 rushing yards on 10 carries, also catching one of two targets for four receiving yards.
Game script worked against Mattison heavily in this one, with the Vikings falling into a 20-0 deficit by the halftime break. The 22-year-old back got out to a hot start with seven yards on his first rush attempt of the day, but his other seven first-half carries yielded a total of only 19 yards.
Mattison was explosive in relief of Dalvin Cook (groin) last Sunday night against the Seahawks, gaining 136 scrimmage yards on 23 touches while posting a 5.6 yards-per-carry average. His fantasy utility may be diminished in the near future, as NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reports that Cook has an extremely strong chance to return following Minnesota's Week 7 bye.
QBs: Kirk Cousins, Sean Mannion
RBs: Alexander Mattison, Mike Boone, Ameer Abdullah, Dalvin Cook, Jake Bargas
WRs: Adam Thielen, Justin Jefferson, Olabisi Johnson, Chad Beebe, K.J. Osborn, Davion Davis, Dan Chisena
TEs: Irv Smith Jr., Tyler Conklin, Kyle Rudolph
New England PatriotsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 20 October 2020
Cam Newton and the Patriots struggled to move the ball in Sunday's 18-12 loss to the Denver Broncos.
The Pats earned just 288 total yards, compiled 14 first downs and went a measly 4-of-13 on third down.
Newton, who returned from the reserve/COVID-19 this week, passed for just 157 yards on 17-of-25 passing, averaged 6.3 yards per attempt, took four sacks and threw zero TDs and two INTs while leading the Pats with 76 rushing yards on 10 attempts and the team's only TD. Newton struggled with his accuracy passing the ball and rarely stretched the field -- just one pass completed over 15-air-yards.
As NFL.com noted, Cam's issues weren't the sole reason for the Pats' loss, but the starting QB took blame for the offensive problems Monday morning during a radio interview on WEEI's The Gregg Hill Show.
"I don't point fingers. I point thumbs," Newton quipped, per Patriots team reporter Megan O'Brien.
Who has two thumbs and averaged 159.5 passing yards with three INTs and just one TD in his last two outings?
Newton noted that the Patriots need to focus on themselves to get through their current losing skid.
"We have no room to look through a telescope. Our focus should be with a microscope," he said when asked if the Pats have the talent to get back in the playoff race.
While he had his issues in the passing game, Newton picked up right where he left off running ball. He carried 10 times for a team-high 76 yards and had the lone TD. It was his second game this season with 70 or more yards rushing.
The Pats are sitting at 2-3, their first time with a losing record through their first five games since 2001. That New England team bounced back with Tom Brady taking over to go 11-5 and win the Super Bowl. The Pats currently sit third in the AFC East behind Buffalo (4-1 ahead of Monday's game) and Miami (3-3).
It's been a rough go of it late for the Pats and Newton, from on-field struggles to dealing with the COVID-19 situation. The former NFL MVP is ready to weather the current storm in Boston.
"The sky may be falling the next couple of days," Newton said. "I'll bring my raincoat and my umbrella to get the job done."
It's worth noting the Patriots had hardly practiced over the past two weeks, as their facility was shut down multiple times because of COVID-19. The lone full-pads practice had been Thursday, which was the first day Newton returned after testing positive for COVID-19 on Oct. 2.
"We need more time together, we need to practice together, we need to execute and do everything better -- no question about that," head coach Bill Belichick said.
Sunday's Broncos-Patriots game had originally been scheduled for Week 5, but was postponed after Patriots starting defensive tackle Byron Cowart had tested positive for COVID-19 two days before kickoff.
The Patriots then closed their facility for three days before opening up for conditioning work last Wednesday. They then held their lone practice Thursday before abruptly canceling their Friday practice after reserve offensive lineman James Ferentz tested positive for COVID-19.
"There are no excuses," said linebacker Ja'Whaun Bentley, one of the team's captains. "We all knew going into this game that there would be some adversity."
The Patriots currently have five players on the reserve COVID-19 list: Cowart, Ferentz, running back Sony Michel, starting right guard Shaq Mason and reserve defensive end Derek Rivers.
The game marked the first time the Patriots didn't score a first-half touchdown at home since Week 4 of the 2016 season -- a 16-0 loss to Buffalo in a game Jacoby Brissett started with Tom Brady serving a four-game NFL suspension.
Sunday's loss also marked the first time that a Belichick-coached Patriots team didn't win when not allowing a touchdown. Including the playoffs, they had been 39-0 in those games.
"We didn't do anything well enough to win," Belichick said. "So we have a lot of work to do, and just need to get back to work and improve and perform better than this. That's really all there is to it."
The Patriots host the 49ers on Sunday. ...
Receiver Julian Edelman had another rough outing, finishing with two catches for a season-low 8 yards. Since catching eight passes for a career-high 179 yards in Week 2 against the Seattle, Edelman has seven total receptions. ...
One last note here. ... On his positive test for COVID-19, Newton said, "I'm just trying to move forward. Respectfully that was two weeks ago. Still bitter over the game and just trying to focus on ways to get better. Obviously everybody knows what the situation was, and it is what it is.
"Respectfully, for the sake of where we are right now, I don't think it's beneficial for me to speak on that. Obviously, the performance today, the time off showed. But like I said, I have to be better, and I will be better."
QBs: Cam Newton, Jarrett Stidham, Brian Hoyer
RBs: Damien Harris, James White, Sony Michel, J.J. Taylor, Rex Burkhead
WRs: Jakobi Meyers, Damiere Byrd, N'Keal Harry, Gunner Olszewski, Julian Edelman, Kristian Wilkerson
TEs: Devin Asiasi, Jordan Thomas, Dalton Keene, Ryan Izzo
New Orleans SaintsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 20 October 2020
According to ESPN.com's Mike Triplett noted, the bye week has been pretty good for the New Orleans Saints historically. But they might appreciate it even more than usual this year.
Not only did the Saints (3-2) use this time to get healthier, just two weeks after they had six starters miss their Week 4 win at Detroit. But Triplett believes they're badly in need of a reboot in all phases of the game.
So this was even more of a "working vacation" than usual -- especially since players and coaches needed to remain in town for daily COVID testing, except for special circumstances.
"Everyone's in town. So we'll take advantage of it," Saints coach Sean Payton said Wednesday.
That doesn't mean extra practice sessions (the Saints held a bonus practice Monday, as they usually do). But Payton did suggest that the coaching staff would be putting in some extra hours.
"I said this to the coaches yesterday and again today: 'We've gotta look closely at everything -- and the details,'" said Payton, who agreed with the notion that it would be a "back to basics" type of week. "You know, we're 3-2, and yet we just have to improve situationally in a lot of areas. And the good news is we've got time to do it.
"But that's gonna require the honest evaluation of, 'Hey, are we doing things the right way? Are we calling it the right way? Are the right people on the field?' We have to answer those questions."
In the past, the Saints used to give their players and coaches and extended break during the bye week -- something Payton picked up from colleague Andy Reid around the time of New Orleans' 2009 Super Bowl season.
During Payton's first three seasons as a head coach from 2006-08, the Saints went 0-3 after bye weeks. So he asked Reid for advice, since Reid's teams had always been so good after bye weeks. And Reid suggested the extended time off.
The Saints then won five straight games following the bye week from 2009-13, including the year when Payton was suspended because of Bountygate in 2012.
Since 2009, here are the coaches who are .700-or-better with at least five such games.
The schedule wasn't foolproof, however. The Saints are 8-3 following byes since 2009 -- including one of their worst performances in the Payton-Drew Brees era last year when they lost 26-9 at home to the 1-7 Atlanta Falcons.
At least that means the Saints don't have to be superstitious about their schedule this time around.
Veteran defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins also took an optimistic approach when he pointed out that the Saints are fortunate to be 3-2 during this rebooting period after they rallied back from deficits of 14-0 and 20-3 the past two weeks.
"I think we're a team that's faced a lot of adversity. But the one thing about this team is when we face adversity, we usually come out on top," Rankins said. "So going into the bye week, you're happy with where you're at with 3-2. Knowing you haven't played your best football, knowing your best football's ahead of you, knowing you're not in the rhythm you want to be in -- in any phase of the game. We'll take 3-2 heading into the bye week, get healthy and then come back and get ready for this long chapter of football.
"But we can go into it knowing our best football's in front of us and can be excited about that."
One last note here. .. Emmanuel Sanders is beginning to produce the way Brees predicted he would when New Orleans signed the veteran receiver away from San Francisco as a free agent.
Now in his 11th season, Sanders caught a single-game, career-high 12 passes for 122 yards to help the Saints defeat the Chargers.
Sanders might not see as many passes thrown his way after the anticipated return of 2019 Offensive Player of the Year Michael Thomas. But Sanders' evidently increasing comfort in New Orleans' offense provides evidence of how the Saints could make it tough for opposing defenses to focus coverage too heavily on Thomas as the season wears on. ...
As for Thomas?
The star wideout missed three games with an ankle injury and then was held out of the lineup in Week 5 in a disciplinary move after he punched defensive back Chauncey Gardner-Johnson during a practice session. Payton said that there will be no more team discipline for Thomas, but cited the ankle while saying he wasn't sure Thomas will play against the Panthers.
"We'll see," Payton said on a conference call Wednesday. "I think he's feeling better. We really don't get into injuries or predictions, so you guys will be the first to know."
Payton said he was "not interested" in talking about how Thomas handled the team's decision or any other aspect of the disciplinary action because the team was moving on to this week's game.
As for Wednesday's practice, NewOrleans.Football's Nick Underhill reports that Thomas was present when practice opened. He was on the field in uniform as the doors opened. He then left and did not return during the open portion of practice. He was wearing a pair of cleats and carrying another pair in his hands when he walked out with a trainer.
Stay tuned. I'll have more when Late-Breaking Updates commence early Thursday (and I'll likely be following up all week). ...
One last note here. ... The Saints designated both LB Kiko Alonso (PUP) and WR/RB Ty Montgomery (IR) as having returned to practice.
QBs: Drew Brees, Taysom Hill, Jameis Winston
RBs: Alvin Kamara, Latavius Murray, Ty Montgomery, Dwayne Washington
WRs: Michael Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, Deonte Harris, Marquez Callaway, Juwan Johnson, Tre'quan Smith
TEs: Jared Cook, Adam Trautman, Josh Hill
New York GiantsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 20 October 2020
Joe Judge won't have a lot of time to enjoy his first win as New York Giants coach.
In fact, the 38-year-old Judge barely had time to celebrate as the Giants rode a wild final four minutes, a decisive play by Mr. Irrelevant and a game-saving late stop by the defense on a 2-point conversion to a 20-19 victory over Washington on Sunday.
After the final whistle, Judge hugged people on the sideline and then immediately starting thinking about playing the Eagles in Philadelphia on Thursday night.
"The emotional sideline was just joy for players," Judge said. "To see them smile and see them rewarded for hard work, that's really why you play."
The Giants, who blew a 10-point lead, gave Judge a game ball and doused him with liquid from bottles in the locker room after the game, which was decided on two big plays in the final 3 1/2 minutes.
Rookie linebacker Tae Crowder, the last player taken in the NFL draft -- Mr. Irrelevant -- scooped up a fumble and ran 43 yards for a touchdown to give New York a 20-13 lead.
Washington (1-5) came right back and got within a point on a 22-yard touchdown pass from Kyle Allen to Cam Sims with 36 seconds left in regulation to cap a 10-play, 75-yard march.
Washington coach Ron Rivera rolled the dice and went for the win with a 2-point conversion. Allen found no one open, scrambled to his left and had his pass under pressure fall incomplete, giving New York (1-5) a W. The stop allowed the Giants to avoid a second 0-6 start since 2013.
It was an interesting game for Daniel Jones.
The Giants finished with 108 net passing yards, their lowest total since they threw for 86 yards on Nov. 23, 2017, at Washington. It was their lowest net passing yardage total in a victory since Dec. 23, 2007, when they for 94 yards in a 38-21 triumph in Buffalo.
Jones completed 12 of 19 passes for 112 yards, one touchdown and one interception for a passer rating of 74.9. The attempts, completions and yards were all Jones' lowest totals in his 18 career starts.
Jones threw a 23-yard touchdown pass to Darius Slayton with 1:36 remaining in the first quarter. It was Jones' and the Giants' first touchdown pass since Jones and Slayton hooked up twice in the season opener against Pittsburgh on Sept. 14. Jones threw 145 passes between scores.
All three of Jones' 2020 touchdown passes have been to Slayton.
Jones led the Giants with seven carries for 74 yards, the highest rushing total by a Giants quarterback since Jeff Hostetler ran for 82 yards at New England on Dec. 30, 1990.
Jones gained 49 yards on a run around the left end in the second quarter. It was the longest run by a Giants quarterback in the Super Bowl era. The previous long was a 47-yarder by Hostetler at Phoenix on Nov. 10, 1991. The 49-yarder was the second-longest run by a quarterback this season (after a 50-yard touchdown by Baltimore's Lamar Jackson two weeks ago, also against Washington). Jones' previous career high was 49 rushing yards vs. San Francisco on Sept. 27.
Jones was sacked once, for a four-yard loss by Ryan Kerrigan, whose 12.5 sacks against the Giants are the highest total for an active player.
Still, he was pleased to get the win.
"We have battled these first five weeks and haven't gotten the results we all hoped for," Jones said. "To get it was thrilling, and coach's first win, it was a lot of fun to do that. ..."
Graham Gano added two field goals for New York.
Receiver CJ Board was carted off the field early in the third quarter after taking a big hit from Washington safety Deshazor Everett trying to catch a low pass. He was diagnosed with a concussion and a neck injury and taken to a hospital for evaluation. Judge said the medical report after the game was positive and the player had movement in his limbs, but Board was ruled out for Thursday night's game.
The Giants had wide receiver Sterling Shepard back at practice on Tuesday.
Shepard was placed on injured reserve after injuring his toe during the team's Week 2 loss to the Bears. Designating him for return opens up a three-week window for Shepard to practice before the team has to activate him or shut him down for the season.
It also makes Shepard eligible to play against the Eagles on Thursday night; I'll have more on that via Late-Breaking Update in advance of Thursday night's game.
Slayton had a limited practice Wednesday and will play Thursday despite his lingering foot injury.
Slayton had two catches for 41 yards and the team’s first passing touchdown since the opening week of the season. Slayton has all three of the team’s receiving touchdowns.
Slayton had limited practices all three days last week as well and was listed as questionable for the game against Washington.
QBs: Daniel Jones, Colt McCoy
RBs: Wayne Gallman, Alfred Morris, Dion Lewis
WRs: Darius Slayton, Sterling Shepard, Golden Tate, Austin Mack, Cody Core, C.J. Board, Dante Pettis
TEs: Evan Engram, Levine Toilolo, Kaden Smith
New York JetsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 20 October 2020
As Associated Press sports writer Dennis Waszak Jr. framed it, "Frustrated fans woke up Monday morning to the reality that things remain the same for the New York Jets.
"In a word: painful.
"Adam Gase is still the coach. The offense is still struggling. So is the defense. Special teams, too. But, hey, at least the 0-6 Jets are now 'winning' the slow crawl to the No. 1 overall draft pick. Whether that ends up being Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence remains to be seen.
"One thing's for sure, though: This season has been tough all around. ..."
And that's a pretty kind assessment.
According to ESPN.com's Rich Cimini, still reeling from the Le'Veon Bell ouster, the Jets' offense stunk up in every way imaginable in the embarrassing 24-0 loss in Miami, failing to convert a single third down for the first 50 minutes. Bell wouldn't have made a difference, but the decision to release him left a sour taste with some players. And they played like it, as if sending a message to ownership.
Cimini went on to advise readers that Gase's firing is inevitable; it's just a matter of when.
At this point, with the season lost and the embarrassments mounting on a weekly basis, it wouldn't be a shock if CEO Christopher Johnson pulls the plug now.
Not only are they bad, but they're dysfunctional, with Gase and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams apparently at odds over Williams' cryptic comments about the offense from last Friday. The CBS cameras caught them exchanging words before the game, a bad look for the organization.
The Jets dropped to 7-15 under Gase, with seven of the losses by at least 20 points. This was their first shutout loss to the Dolphins since the 1982 AFC Championship Game, the Mud Bowl.
Week after week, the Jets showed up unprepared, mentally and physically. They've been outscored in the first half, 114-29 -- utterly astounding.
Asked on Monday about the possibility -- first discussed last week, about giving up play-calling duties, Gase replied: "I've got a couple of other things I have to really sort through offensively before we make any kind of decisions whatsoever on stuff like that. That's like step 10 right now and we're on Step 2."
Gase has called the plays in all 70 games as a head coach.
At this point, a change couldn't hurt. It's hard to go less than zero.
Somewhere in Kansas City, Bell is smiling -- and still collecting his Jets' paychecks. ...
Could things get worse? Oh, yeah. The Jets' schedule is tough over the next several weeks: Home vs. Buffalo, at Kansas City, and at home vs. New England on a Monday night before the bye-week break. For the record, no Jets team has started 0-9. Not even the 1996 squad, which opened 0-8 on its way to a franchise-worst 1-15.
Meanwhile, the fire sale in clearly on.
Last week, general manager Joe Douglas tried finding a trade partner to move Bell before ultimately releasing him last Tuesday. After the game Sunday night, Douglas agreed to deal veteran nose tackle Steve McLendon to Tampa Bay. The Jets also sent a 2023 seventh-rounder to the Buccaneers in exchange for the Buccaneers' sixth-rounder in 2022. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Quarterback Sam Darnold's return to the lineup remains up in the air. Darnold missed his second game with a right shoulder injury on Sunday and Gase offered no timetable for when he might be back in action.
"I don't have a great answer for you on that one. ... We're progressing in the right direction," Gase said, via Ralph Vacchiano of SNY.
Darnold was slated to work on a limited basis in practice Wednesday. A positive, but not definitive step.
If Darnold does miss this week's game against the Bills, it will be the ninth missed game in the first 39 games of his NFL career.
Gase said there's a chance rookie wide receiver Denzel Mims plays Sunday versus the Bills "as long as we don't have any setbacks."
Jamison Crowder (groin) was limited in Wednesday's practice.
I'll be following up on Darnold, Crowder and Mims via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
Joe Flacco was 21-of-44 for 186 yards and an interception in the loss to Miami.
The 35-year-old quarterback hasn't been able to do much in Darnold's place to get anything going on offense.
"I definitely made some mistakes and have got to clean some things up and keep on going," Flacco said. "But we're playing in some really tough conditions right now and we've just got to keep getting better."
Also according to Cimini, Gase relied too much on running back Frank Gore. Why run a 37-year-old in a lost season? The plan was to use rookie LaMical Perine, who was supposed to get the bulk of the carries. It didn't work out like that, as Perine ran seven times to Gore's 11.
It made no sense.
Ty Johnson made his Jets debut and broke a 34-yard gain, the longest by a Jets running back this season -- a flickering bright spot.
QBs: Sam Darnold, Joe Flacco, James Morgan
RBs: Ty Johnson, Josh Adams, Lamical Perine, Frank Gore
WRs: Jamison Crowder, Breshad Perriman, Denzel Mims, Jeff Smith, Braxton Berrios, Vyncint Smith, Chris Hogan
TEs: Chris Herndon, Ryan Griffin, Daniel Brown, Trevon Wesco
Philadelphia EaglesCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 20 October 2020
The Eagles overcame losing Carson Wentz and key starters to win the Super Bowl three years ago and made the playoffs the past two seasons with significant players hurt.
It's never been this bad, though.
The Eagles (1-4-1) finished Sunday's 30-28 loss to Baltimore with only two healthy starters on offense: Wentz and center Jason Kelce.
And, they almost rallied to tie the game by scoring 22 points in the fourth quarter. The Ravens (5-1) stopped Wentz on a 2-point conversion to secure the win.
Running back Miles Sanders suffered a knee injury at the end of a 74-yard run and tight end Zach Ertz went down with an ankle injury.
Both aren't expected to play against the New York Giants on Thursday night.
Ertz is expected to miss three to four weeks with an ankle injury, sources told ESPN's Chris Mortensen on Monday. A source told ESPN's Adam Schefter that Ertz suffered a high ankle sprain.
Sanders is expected to miss "1-2 weeks," making him questionable for the team's Week 8 game against the Cowboys.
As Rotoworld.com notes, Boston Scott out-snapped (38 to 25) and out-touched (11 to 8) Corey Clement minus Sanders in Week 1 but neither offered much in terms of production. Scott is a viable filler for those struggling to fill spots over the bye weeks even if he is projected to split touches with Clement (and perhaps Jason Huntley, too).
"This is where veteran players who have been through it, and as recently as the last couple of seasons with us, know how to deal with it, know how to handle it and know how to pull these guys along," head coach Doug Pederson said Monday. "I think it's valuable to have the experience that our guys have had. Listen, nobody wants to go through a season with the amount of injuries that have piled up on us right now. But you saw it. There's no quit in these guys. There's always a constant battle until the end and that's encouraging moving forward."
In 2017, the Eagles lost Wentz, left tackle Jason Peters, linebacker Jordan Hicks, versatile running back Darren Sproles and special teams captain Chris Maragos to season-ending injuries. Nick Foles led them to their first Super Bowl title.
Wentz finished 2018 on the sideline with a back injury. Again, Foles led them to the playoffs and a win in the wild-card game.
Last season, Wentz led Philadelphia to four straight must-wins in December and the team clinched the NFC East without seven starters on offense in an elimination game.
"We've just got to keep it together, keep it tight, keep focusing on one week at a time," Pederson said. "But I am encouraged by what we've done, even though we haven't necessarily won the game."
On a more positive note. ... The Eagles should be getting some reinforcements soon. Wide receivers Alshon Jeffery (Lisfranc) and DeSean Jackson (hamstring) have been practicing in a limited capacity the past couple of weeks. Both wideouts were limited Monday and Tuesday.
"Well, obviously, Alshon and DeSean have been practicing with us and DeSean last week and so obviously optimistic," head coach Doug Pederson said in his press conference. "Short week. You don't know how guys are going to respond physically. We'll see where they are at because we don't -- with short weeks, we don't get actual live reps in practice, so we keep everything more of the traditional walk-through."
We found out early Wednesday, when Jeffery was included on the list of those ruled out -- along with Sanders and Ertz. Jackson is expected to against the Giants, according to Schefter.
In addition, Travis Fulgham keeps making plays since his debut with the Eagles in Week 4. He had six catches for 75 yards, including a leaping 18-yard TD on fourth-and-9 in the fourth quarter. Fulgham has 18 catches for 284 yards and three TDs in three games.
Impressive numbers for a guy who was cut four times by three teams since Detroit selected him in the sixth round of the 2019 draft.
"I just wish I could've made more plays for the team, and we just need to do more to get the win," Fulgham said. ...
Jalen Hurts played his first snap on Philadelphia's seventh possession and ran 20 yards to get the offense a first down for the first time in the game. Wentz was split wide on the play and blocked Marcus Peters down the field. Hurts later was a decoy on Sanders' long run that was fumbled and recovered in the end zone for a touchdown. He was on the field for Wentz's 1-yard sneak for a TD.
Hurts also took the snap and was tackled on a 2-point conversion try. Overall, Hurts has been on the field for 18 snaps this season. The offense has gained 180 yards on those plays.
"I think Jalen's a playmaker," Wentz said. "You bring him in off the bench and defenses have to be ready for him. ..."
According to ESPN.com's Tim McManus, the idea that Wentz should be benched in favor of Hurts should be put on ice for now. Wentz nearly rallied a decimated offense back from a 16-point, fourth-quarter deficit, throwing for 213 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Not to mention, the Eagles are tied to Wentz financially after giving him a four-year, $128 million extension last summer. Sitting him is a move that would be very hard to come back from.
What Wentz needs are playmakers who will loosen defenses up and make life easier while he operates behind an unrecognizable offensive line and with a makeshift supporting cast. Hurts at the very least offers that.
Worth noting: Wentz absorbed 16 hits, including a couple late ones that were personal fouls, and got sacked six times. He can't continue to withstand that many shots.
Jake Elliott missed a 52-yard field goal at the end of the first half that proved costly. Elliott is only 7 for 10 overall, 1 for 4 from beyond 50 yards.
QBs: Jalen Hurts, Carson Wentz, Nate Sudfeld
RBs: Miles Sanders, Boston Scott, Jordan Howard, Corey Clement, Jason Huntley, Adrian Killins
WRs: Jalen Reagor, Travis Fulgham, Greg Ward, DeSean Jackson, Alshon Jeffery, John Hightower, JJ Arcega-Whiteside, Quez Watkins
TEs: Dallas Goedert, Zach Ertz, Richard Rodgers, Josh Perkins
Pittsburgh SteelersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 20 October 2020
As ESPN.com's Brooke Pryor noted, before facing the Browns, Steelers defensive lineman Cam Heyward said the team wasn't focused specifically on targeting quarterback Baker Mayfield's bruised ribs.
But he did say the plan was to inflict "good punishment."
And that's exactly what the Steelers did, sacking Mayfield four times and intercepting him twice in a 38-7 win that gave Pittsburgh just the second 5-0 start in franchise history and first since 1978. It was also the Steelers' first win against a team with a winning record this season.
"That was varsity ball today," head coach Mike Tomlin said. "They stepped up and stepped up big all across the board."
It wasn't all good news, though, as inside linebacker and defensive play caller Devin Bush went out with a knee injury in the second quarter. The injury is an ACL tear and Bush will need season-ending surgery.
The 2019 first-round pick played every defensive snap until the injury. He was replaced by Robert Spillane, who had just one defensive snap before this season.
Even without Bush, the Steelers dominated the Browns (4-2).
Meanwhile, the Steelers dominated in the rushing game, taking advantage of Cleveland's subpar safeties. James Conner racked up 101 yards on 20 carries and scored the team's first offensive touchdown for a 17-0 lead in the second quarter. Receiver Chase Claypool and running back Benny Snell Jr. also managed to score rushing touchdowns.
The Steelers' ground game finished with 129 yards on 37 carries and three touchdowns, while the defense held the Browns' rushing attack to just 75 yards on 22 carries.
"We didn't have to throw many in the second half when you have a lead like that," Ben Roethlisberger said. "It felt like an old Bill Cowher offense."
After posting an anemic offensive performance without Roethlisberger last season, the Steelers have scored at least 26 points in each of their first five games for the first time in franchise history. Last season, the team scored 26 or more points in just four games.
With a 38-7 lead thanks to Snell's fourth-quarter touchdown, Roethlisberger went to the bench for the final eight minutes of the game, allowing Mason Rudolph to play one drive.
"This is a good football team coming in here," Roethlisberger said. "Our first AFC North game. We wanted to kind of play good football. And we wanted to do it on all phases, and I don't know the last time I came out of the game with eight minutes to go, so that's a good feeling."
This week, the Steelers head for Tennessee to take on the Titans. They'll need to find a way too slow down the 6-3, 247-pound Derrick Henry. The NFL's leading rusher is averaging 117.6 yards per game. The Steelers haven't allowed an opponent to go over 104 yards rushing in a game this season. ...
Other notes of interest. ... With his rushing touchdown Sunday, Claypool brought his season total to 6 total touchdowns (4 receiving touchdowns and 2 rushing touchdowns). Claypool is the first player since at least the 1970 merger with at least 4 receiving touchdowns and at least 2 rushing touchdowns over his first 5 career games.
Claypool's 6 total touchdowns are tied for the most by any wide receiver and tied for 5th-most by any player regardless of position in his first 5 career games since 1970.
With the Browns committed to slowing down JuJu Smith-Schuster and Claypool, James Washington found himself in one-on-one coverage frequently. He responded with four receptions for 68 yards and a 28-yard score in which he sold a double move so effectively there wasn't a defender within 10 yards when he hauled the ball in.
The Steelers splurged in the offseason to bring in fullback Derek Watt on a three-year, $9.75-million deal. When he's been healthy, Watt's impact has been largely minimal. He's been on the field for just 25 offensive snaps and considering how thin they are at inside linebacker, it appears the money might have been better spent elsewhere.
On the injury front. ... Tomlin said Diontae Johnson (back) will be on the field when the team returned to practice Wednesday and that was the case; he appears to be set to play on Sunday against the Titans.
QBs: Ben Roethlisberger, Mason Rudolph, Josh Dobbs
RBs: James Conner, Benny Snell, Anthony McFarland Jr., Jaylen Samuels, Wendell Smallwood
WRs: Diontae Johnson, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Chase Claypool, James Washington, Ray-Ray McCloud
TEs: Vance McDonald, Zach Gentry, Eric Ebron
San Francisco 49ersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 20 October 2020
As ESPN.com's Nick Wagoner noted, the San Francisco 49ers followed their worst performance of the season with their best.
A week ago, the Niners were coming off a humiliating 43-17 beatdown at the hands of Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Miami Dolphins. Jimmy Garoppolo was benched, the defense was a sieve and the offensive line couldn't block a second-grader.
The play versus Miami portended a potential prime-time mess versus the 4-1 L.A. Rams on Sunday night.
Instead, Kyle Shanahan's team put on a clinic on getting the ball out quick, made Rams defenders miss in space and squelched the L.A. passing attack for a 24-16 victory.
"I think we always have a pretty big sense of urgency, but I think when you get embarrassed like we did last week, and when you get embarrassed like that, you can find out a lot about your team," Shanahan said Sunday, via the San Jose Mercury News. "We came in Monday and it was a hard day, but usually when stuff like that happens, guys either give in because it gets too hard and they try to hide and point fingers a little bit and just go through the motions or guys try to step it up and get better.
"I was very impressed with the character of our team and just how the players carried themselves and the way they came out to practice on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday and really the way they responded to all of us get embarrassed. They tried to get better this week and not worry about anything else. Usually when you do that and you can put together those types of practices, usually the results are better and I'm glad that they were because I thought they really earned it throughout the week and today."
The win was huge for a team decimated by injuries this season.
Shanahan called a marvelous game, protecting his QB and offensive line from wrecking ball Aaron Donald by getting the ball out quick and short and utilizing a host of motions, WR runs and pop passes.
Per Next Gen Stats, Jimmy G averaged just 2.38 seconds per throw, 4.4 air yards per attempt and 226 of his 268 passing yards came by targets after the catch.
Niners players got open with ease against the Rams secondary: 72.7 percent of Garoppolo's targets came to "open" receivers (3-plus yards of separation) in Week 6 (only 36.4 percent in Weeks 1-5), per Next Gen Stats.
After the game, Garoppolo said that he was feeling a lot closer to normal this time around.
"Yeah, the ankle's definitely, it's made improvements this week," Garoppolo said, via 49ersWebzone.com. "So, yeah, I could lean on it a little bit more, was able to move in the pocket a little bit, just was able to be myself really this week. It started with a good week of practice and got to thank the medical staff for doing their part."
After getting battered last week on his bulky ankle, Garoppolo wasn't sacked, and the 49ers' run game scampered for 122 total yards.
"I thought the O-line had a hell of a game," Shanahan said. "Always wait to see the film, but I thought they cleared a bunch of good lanes for our backs. I thought they protected very well versus a very good front and the results, I think, speak for themselves. So, they did a hell of a job."
The win was massive for the 49ers' playoff hopes. Now they sit at 3-3 in the thick of the hunt. A loss would have put Shanahan's team further down in the NFC West cellar.
The schedule only gets more difficult for the Niners, however. First is a trip to New England to face Garoppolo's former team. Then San Francisco heads to Seattle, hosts Green Bay and travels to New Orleans.
Also, the news isn't all good.
Raheem Mostert is exiting the 49ers' lineup again.
Sunday night's high-ankle sprain will keep him from the upcoming trip to New England and likely send him onto short-term injured reserve list, Shanahan said Monday.
This injury-stricken season has finally caught up to the offensive line, too. Center Ben Garland (calf) also is ticketed for injured reserve to recover, and left tackle Trent Williams (ankle) is being evaluated after their injuries in the 49ers' 24-16 win over the Los Angeles Rams.
To again replace Mostert, the 49ers will turn to Jerick McKinnon, rookie JaMycal Hasty and possibly Jeff Wilson Jr., who did not suit up Sunday night because of a calf strain they're hoping he will return from this week.
Tevin Coleman is a "long shot" to come off injured reserve this week, having been out with a knee sprain from the same game as Mostert's knee injury against the Jets on Sept. 20.
"It's definitely different," Garoppolo said of a missing-Mostert offense. "Raheem is so unique with his speed and how he hits the hole and how he sees things."
Mostert's left ankle got twisted on a tackle after a 4-yard reception inside the final minute of the first half. He tested it on a 1-yard run after halftime, then retreated to the bench with 76 all-purpose yards on the night, including 65 on 17 rushes.
When Mostert missed 2 1/2 games with a knee sprain, the 49ers turned to McKinnon as the starter, and McKinnon gave way in Sunday's closing action to rookie Hasty.
"Our running backs, we're pretty deep there," Garoppolo added.
QBs: C.J. Beathard, Josh Rosen, Jimmy Garoppolo, Nick Mullens
RBs: Jeff Wilson, Jerick McKinnon, Tevin Coleman, Austin Walter, JaMycal Hasty, Raheem Mostert
WRs: Kendrick Bourne, Richie James, River Cracraft, Trent Taylor, Jordan Matthews, Brandon Aiyuk, Deebo Samuel
TEs: Jordan Reed, Ross Dwelley, George Kittle, Charlie Woerner
Seattle SeahawksCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 20 October 2020
Not that he needed to provide the endorsement, but in the midst of talking about his start of the season, DK Metcalf threw his support behind a growing candidacy.
"Russ for MVP, 2020," Metcalf proclaimed.
He's of course speaking of Russell Wilson, the quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks and one of the clear leaders in the MVP conversation through the first quarter of the season.
Actually, as Associated Press sports writer Tim Booth, there may be no other leader. Wilson is playing possibly the finest football of his career, leading the Seahawks (5-0) to their best start in franchise history and finding ways to cover up for the flaws of an imperfect team.
Now in his ninth season, Wilson is in the prime of his career and has been provided the tools to fully emerge into the elite category of QBs. He's not the game manager that first arrived in Seattle and was the accompaniment to one of the best defenses in recent history.
This is and has been Wilson's team for several years. The difference is after years of transitions and smart moves, Seattle has surrounded its quarterback with a supporting cast on offense equal to the talent of its leader.
And the results, at least to start this season, can't be argued.
"I think it's been so evident over the past few years of just how collectively we are together as a team," Wilson said. "Everybody is sticking together. Everybody is believing in one another. Everybody is helping one another. It doesn't matter who makes the play. It's us. It's about us and doing it together."
The Seahawks arrived at their bye week after another game when Wilson's performance was the lasting memory of Seattle's victory over Minnesota. Wilson rallied Seattle from a 13-0 halftime deficit and capped the comeback by driving 94 yards with less than two minutes left, hitting Metcalf on a fourth-and-goal TD pass with 15 seconds left for a 27-26 win.
Wilson now has 19 touchdown passes and just three interceptions through five games. It's the second-most TD tosses in the first five games of a season, behind only Peyton Manning's 20 in 2013 when he was the league MVP.
Wilson leads the league in passer rating and until this past week was tops in completion percentage. He's on pace for 60 TDs and 4,800 yards passing.
But the reasons behind Wilson's blazing start to the season go deeper than TDs and passer rating, two areas where he has always been among the top QBs in the league.
The relationship between Wilson and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer is now in its third year and there seems to be an increased trust by both parties, especially in early downs. In Schottenheimer's first two seasons, Seattle threw the ball on first or second down 724 times in 32 regular-season games, the second-lowest total of any team in the league.
While the numbers across the league aren't equal through five weeks, Seattle has thrown on first or second down 147 times in five games. For context, that's the same number as Patrick Mahomes in Kansas City.
Schottenheimer also sees an increased decisiveness on where Wilson is going with his throws.
"I think when you watch a quarterback, everybody watches the ball and they see where it's going, but watch the quarterback's footwork. Watch his back foot at setup and you can kind of always see how well they're seeing the game," Schottenheimer said. "If you see his back foot hit and the ball come out, or you see his back foot hit and maybe take a hit or reset and the ball come out quick, that means he's seeing things well.
"When you see quarterbacks back there and they kind of start shaking their feet a little bit, that means they're not seeing things very well. If you go watch Russ, he's getting that ball out of his hands fast because he's seeing things well and he's got a great feel for what teams are doing to us."
For as good as Wilson has been to start the season, there will be roadblocks ahead. Minnesota did well in slowing Wilson and Seattle's offense in the first half and there will be lessons others will steal going forward.
But even in games when statistically he's not his best, if Wilson can continue to have moments like his late winning drive against the Vikings, his case for MVP will only grow in stature.
"There is just so much character that goes into being able to have that much poise, to be that clear, to function like that so beautifully throughout those opportunities," Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. "He's just as good as you can get. I don't know how anybody could ever be better than what he continues to show us in those situations. He's as good as you can get."
Meanwhile, Wilson and the Seahawks both extended leads Sunday while on their bye -- the quarterback in the MVP race and his team in the NFC West standings.
The Seahawks (5-0) now lead the division by 1.5 games over the Rams (4-2), who lost to the 49ers (3-3), and Arizona (4-2). Green Bay's blowout loss leaves Seattle as the NFC's lone unbeaten team. Various sports books had Wilson and Aaron Rodgers as Nos. 1 and 2 in the MVP race before Rodgers' clunker of a performance in Tampa Bay. ...
Also of interest. ... Carroll said Monday that there's "no set ETA" for Penny (knee) to return to the Seahawks' active roster, Bob Condotta of The Seattle Times reports.
As CBSSports.com notes, two weeks removed from saying Penny was "getting really close" but wouldn't be rushed back, Carroll had another non-update on Penny's recovery from the torn left ACL he suffered Week 14 of last season. The prolonged rehab likely stems from the additional damage found in the knee during surgery, but there's no sense yet when the Seahawks will open his window to return from the reserve/PUP list. In the meantime, Chris Carson will be relied upon as the team's No. 1 back, with Carlos Hyde (shoulder), Travis Homer and DeeJay Dallas on hand for any reps that trickle down to the backups.
QBs: Russell Wilson, Geno Smith
RBs: Chris Carson, Carlos Hyde, Rashaad Penny, DeeJay Dallas, Travis Homer
WRs: DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, David Moore, Freddie Swain, Penny Hart, Phillip Dorsett
TEs: Will Dissly, Jacob Hollister, Greg Olsen, Colby Parkinson
Tampa Bay BuccaneersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 20 October 2020
Tom Brady threw two touchdown passes, running back Ronald Jones rushed for two more and tight end Rob Gronkowski finally saw the end zone in a 38-10 knockout blow to the undefeated Green Bay Packers on Sunday -- the Bucs' first complete performance of the season and first signature win with Brady as they improved to 4-2 and took first place in the NFC South.
With weapons Chris Godwin and LeSean McCoy back, a rested Mike Evans and rookie Tyler Johnson growing by leaps and bounds, Brady completed 17 of 27 passes, tossing touchdowns to Johnson and Gronkowski. Stepping up in the absence of O.J. Howard, who was lost to a ruptured Achilles tendon two weeks ago, Gronkowski caught five passes on eight targets for a team-leading 78 yards and a touchdown -- a back-shoulder fade in the second quarter.
Not to be outdone, Jones delivered yet another strong effort. He rushed for 113 yards -- his third consecutive rushing performance of over 100 yards after having just one 100-yard performance prior to this season -- and his first multi-touchdown game.
But much of this comes because the Buccaneers are evolving into a team with a strong defensive identity.
"We've got great stars on the offensive side of the ball, but like I said at the beginning of the season, we want this team to be a defensive team," second-year linebacker Devin White said.
"We want to be the guys on the field when it's crunch time," the fifth overall pick from the 2019 draft said. "We want to be the ones who make that play and get our offense the ball back."
Six games into Brady's first season in Tampa Bay, the NFL's top-ranked defense is indeed doing its part to bolster the six-time Super Bowl champion quarterback's bid to transform the Bucs into championship contenders. The Bucs (4-2) haven't made the playoffs since 2007, a 12-season drought that's second longest in the league.
Brady outplayed Rodgers during Sunday's rout.
The bigger story, though, was a defense that had five sacks, intercepted Rodgers twice, returned one of the picks for a touchdown, and limited the league's highest scoring team to 10 points and 201 yards -- 52 after halftime.
The Packers rushed for 94 yards, ending Tampa Bay's impressive streak of three consecutive games holding opponents under 50 on the ground. Nevertheless, the unit extended a stretch of not allowing 100 yards rushing to 12 consecutive games dating to last season.
"It's definitely a standard that we have to uphold now. Especially with the coaching staff we have, they're not going to accept anything less," linebacker Lavonte David said of the performance against the Packers.
Tampa Bay leads the league in rushing defense, allowing just 64.3 yards per game -- down from 73.8 a year ago, when the Bucs also had the No. 1 rushing defense.
What's new is the unit ranks first in total defense as well at 282 yards per game. Opponents gained 343.9 per game last season, when Tampa Bay finished 7-9 and missed the playoffs.
"We've got to be able to be consistent, not get too high, not get too low, and just stay the course," David said. "We know we played a good football game against a great football team, but now that's in the past. We have to keep on moving forward and keep on stacking them."
While the Bucs are undefeated at home, they are 1-2 on the road. They'll get a chance to improve on that when they travel to Las Vegas on Sunday night.
Other notes of interest. ... Jones has three straight 100-yard rushing outings, including a 23-carry, 113-yard, two-touchdown day vs. Green Bay.
Fellow running back Leonard Fournette (ankle) has been inactive two of the past three games.
"No sense in risking him tweaking it and losing him for another month. Just get him healthy. ... We'll need him down the stretch for sure," Arians said. ...
I'll have more on Fournette via Late-Breaking Update as the week progresses. ...
As noted above, Brady hit Gronkowski for a touchdown for the first time since both players joined the Buccaneers this offseason. It was also Gronkowski's first touchdown since 2018 as he retired after that season and did not play in 2019.
"It felt good to get into the end zone, to get back into the end zone. It's been quite some time," Gronkowski said in his Monday press conference.
The score was part of Gronkowski's most productive day of the season thus far. He's had a varied role in the offense through six weeks and said Monday that he's prepared for anything because "you just really never know until the game starts."
Three of the four catches that Gronkowski made outside the end zone went for first downs and that's another familiar sight from his days with Brady in New England.
Those flickers served the Bucs well on Sunday and they'll likely be looking for more in the weeks to come. ...
After the team committed 11 penalties for 109 yards in a 20-19 loss to the Chicago Bears in Week 5, Evans called for the Bucs to have more discipline.
"During the week, we've got to have some type of discipline within ourselves," Evans said. "It's not up to coaches. It's us the players, so we have to fix that. And we better do it or we're gonna lose."
They responded, with zero total penalties Sunday while the Packers had six penalties for 76 yards. It was just the second time in Bucs franchise history they recorded zero penalties (previous time: Week 16 of 1983 at Detroit). Prior to Sunday, the Bucs had been leading the NFL in penalties, averaging 8.4 per game.
"When we play clean games -- and not all games are going to be zero penalties -- but when we keep it down and play hard, you see what the outcome can be," linebacker Devin White said.
And finally. ... Since losing NT Vita Vea to a season-ending leg injury on Oct. 8, the Bucs have been in the market for experienced depth on the interior defensive line. They addressed the need by acquiring Steve McLendon from the New York Jets after the veteran nose tackle played Sunday in Miami.
"He's got to go through the protocols and pass the physical, but he played (Sunday)," Arians said. "We all know Steve. He's really a quality human being and a hell of a player. ... Hopefully we can get him past the physical and get the trade through."
QBs: Tom Brady, Blaine Gabbert, Ryan Griffin
RBs: Ronald Jones, Leonard Fournette, LeSean McCoy, Ke'Shawn Vaughn, Kenjon Barner
WRs: Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown, Scott Miller, Justin Watson, Tyler Johnson, Jaydon Mickens
TEs: Rob Gronkowski, Cameron Brate, Antony Auclair, O.J. Howard
Tennessee TitansCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 20 October 2020
As ESPN.com's Turron Davenport put it, "The magic ride continues for the Tennessee Titans with their improbable 42-36 comeback win over the Houston Texans -- in large part thanks to Derrick Henry, who fueled their final drive to get the win in overtime."
To get to overtime, they needed a clutch drive to end regulation. With less than two minutes remaining, Ryan Tannehill and the Titans' offense took over on their own 24-yard line down by seven points. Led by Tannehill, the Titans drove 76 yards and finished it off with A.J. Brown making a contested 7-yard catch in the corner of the end zone and getting his feet down.
The Titans won the coin toss and received the ball to start overtime.
Offensive coordinator Arthur Smith went back to Henry, who picked up 53 yards on a screen pass. Four plays later, Henry took the direct snap 5 yards into the end zone to end the game.
Henry finished with 212 yards rushing and 52 yards receiving, becoming the fourth player in NFL history to rush for at least 200 yards in back-to-back games against a single opponent. Henry also had a 94-yard TD run.
Head coach Mike Vrabel said he has never seen a player as big and fast as Henry with the football in his hands. But the thing that he loved the most about Henry's 94-yard touchdown run was how he used the stiff arm.
"The stiff arm is something that we had been working on with him," Vrabel said. "People come at his legs. He's taking his hand down there to the helmet that's coming at his knee. He's able to fend them off then have the speed to pull away from DBs."
For the record, Henry was clocked at 21.6 mph on his 94-yard touchdown run.
With his career-high 264 yards from scrimmage, Henry joins Saquon Barkley (vs. Washington in Week 16 of 2019) as the only players with 250 scrimmage yards and two TDs in a game in the past three seasons.
Henry also passed Eddie George for the third-most rushing touchdowns by a Titans/Oilers player in their first five seasons. Henry is now tied with Chris Johnson with 44 rushing touchdowns over that span.
On Wednesday, Henry was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week.
But Associated Press sports writer Teresa M. Walker notes the Titans' winning mojo is about to get its biggest test yet.
Sure, the Titans managed to survive and even thrive despite dealing with the NFL's first COVID-19 outbreak. They've also had players miss games because of injuries while winning their first five games for only the second time in franchise history —the first since 2008.
Now they will be without their three-time Pro Bowl left tackle with Taylor Lewan placed on injured reserve Monday with a torn right ACL.
"By Wednesday when it's time to practice, I'm confident that we'll have five guys that will be comfortable where they're at and try to learn the game plan and be ready," Vrabel said.
The Titans lost Lewan in the third quarter of Sunday's game. Lewan was able to walk off the field and to the locker room by himself and broke the news of his injury himself on social media Monday.
Ty Sambrailo, a five-year veteran signed this offseason for depth, replaced Lewan in the game. Vrabel said Sambrailo has played a bunch as a backup already through five games.
"We'll see what's best for the team and try to move forward with the next guy in there," Vrabel said.
The timing couldn't be much worse. Pittsburgh (5-0) visits Sunday in a game rescheduled from Oct. 4 due to the Titans' COVID-19 outbreak, and the Steelers lead the NFL with 24 sacks.
Still, the Titans rank second in the NFL averaging 422 yards per game, and only Seattle is scoring more -- by just a point -- than Tennessee (32.8).
Tennessee now has scored at least 30 in four straight games, matching a streak from 2019. The Titans also have scored at least 42 five times since the start of the 2019 season, most in the NFL in that span.
Other notes of interest. ... Tannehill threw for a season-high 364 yards and tied his career high with four touchdown passes for the second time this season. He also drove the Titans to their fourth winning drive in five games with the 82-yard series in overtime after driving them to the tying TD.
Tannehill ranks third with a 113.5 passer rating, and he's tied for fourth in the NFL with 13 TD passes with the likes of Deshaun Watson, Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes.
"MVP, MVP," Henry said of Tannehill. "Let's start the campaign right now. We ain't going to get too high, but MVP, I think he should be that conversation, definitely."
Stephen Gostkowski won the first three games this season with field goals had a rough game against Houston. He had a 27-yard field goal blocked in the third quarter and also missed a 37-yarder wide right early in the fourth.
On the injury front. ... In addition to losing Lewan, tight end Jonnu Smith hurt his right ankle in the second half and never returned. ESPN's Adam Schefter reports Smith's ankle sprain is considered "minor."
Smith (ankle) was limited in Wednesday's practice; I'll be following his progress in coming days via Late-Breaking Update.
On a more positive note, the Titans activated wide receiver Corey Davis from the reserve/COVID-19 list Monday. MyCole Pruitt followed Davis on Tuesday as the tight end was also activated. ...
And finally. ... The NFL has informed the Tennessee Titans that its review of how the team handled its coronavirus outbreak has concluded. The organization will face a potential fine, a league source told Schefter. Individuals will not be disciplined, and there was no discussion of forfeiture of draft picks, according to Schefter.
The team was fully cooperative, as the league inspected the facility and found it to be in compliance.
There were incidents of people not wearing masks, but there was insufficient communication regarding player workouts outside the facility.
QBs: Ryan Tannehill, Logan Woodside
RBs: Derrick Henry, Jeremy McNichols, Senorise Perry, Darrynton Evans
WRs: A.J. Brown, Corey Davis, Kalif Raymond, Nick Westbrook_Ikhine, Cody Hollister, Adam Humphries
TEs: Jonnu Smith, Anthony Firkser, Geoff Swaim, MyCole Pruitt
Washington Football TeamCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 20 October 2020
According to NFL.com's Kevin Patra, head coach Ron Rivera wanted no part of any tie or overtime Sunday against the New York Giants.
Washington scored a touchdown on a Kyle Allen pass to Cam Sims with 36 seconds left to play, pulling the Football Team to within one point of the Giants, 20-19. Instead of kicking the game-tying extra point, Rivera kept his offense on the field and played for the win.
The two-point try, however, was smothered by the Big Blue defense. Allen was flushed from the pocket and threw a harmless duck into the turf as he was hit. The Giants got their first win of the season.
Rivera defended the decision to play for the win, noting he wants his players to have a personality of always playing to win.
"The only way to learn how to win is to play to win," Rivera said, via SI.com. "I told them in the locker room, I said, 'Guys, I play to win,' that's part of my philosophy.
"The mentality has to be we have to do certain things to win football games and if taking a little gamble is part of it then that's what I'm doing ... The players wanted to go for it, but it was my decision."
Playing to win should be a 60-minute mentality, not just on the final play.
Washington got down 10-0 in the first quarter to the previously winless Giants.
Rivera's team clawed its way back for a 13-13 tie midway through the fourth quarter. Allen -- who the coach turned to after benching Dwayne Haskins -- then fumbled on a sack with less than four minutes remaining that was scooped up for a Giants TD. That play led to Washington's seven-point deficit in the final minute.
Rivera was hired to help change the culture after years of mismanagement in Washington. He's putting his stamp on the squad with his decisions, from benching a first-round QB to going for the W Sunday. Agree or disagree, Rivera is doing what he feels is best to turn around a club lost in the wilderness.
"I'm trying to get our players to understand this is how we're going to do things. We're going to do things to the max. We're going to play to win football games. It's going to bug me because we lost," Rivera said, via 106.7 The Fan. "It's going to piss me off. I want to win football games. I don't care this is my first year. I don't care we have young guys that have to learn. We're trying to teach them. We're going to teach them and they're going to learn how to win. And the end of the day, that's what we're here for."
So far, it's been a rough learning process for Washington, which lost its fifth straight game. Luckily in the NFC East, 1-5 still keeps them in playoff contention.
But what's next?
As ESPN.com's John Keim recounted it, the Team turned to Allen to help spark a team entering a pivotal stretch. Now that they've lost to the previously winless Giants, Keim believes it's hard to know where this team can turn. At times he provided a spark; at times he made crucial mistakes.
Rivera's reasons for benching Haskins were sound: He has to mature in the ways that two coaching staffs have now asked him to do. If a quarterback isn't handling his business a certain way, then his development will be stunted.
But it hasn't gone well for Washington since that move, and the question then becomes where do they go from here?
They still have some winnable games, but they're also on a five-game losing streak. They're a team that others now point to on their schedules as a winnable game.
Allen had some moments when it was clear why he was in the game. He competed and made some plays because of his mobility. He did a good job for most of the game at taking what was available. However, he also threw a costly interception in the first quarter that led to a touchdown and his fumble in the fourth was returned for the winning score. Allen also missed some targets that could have resulted in big plays. He did respond well after his first pick, completing 13 of his next 15 passes for 155 yards and a touchdown, plus led a drive for a field goal.
He led a touchdown drive after losing a fumble.
That's all good. But this team needed a win. ...
Allen, who finished the game 31-of-42 for 280 yards with two touchdowns and an interception, targeted eight receivers and completed passes to seven. The running game, which had 38 yards against the Rams, put up 86 yards behind the duo of J.D. McKissic and Antonio Gibson. Washington outgained the Giants, 337-240.
So there are positives heading into Sunday's home game against the Cowboys. We'll see if they can build on them. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Logan Thomas was one of the offensive standouts for Washington during its matchup against the Giants. The tight end finished the day with three receptions for 42 yards and one touchdown.
With 17 seconds left in the half, Washington was trailing New York, 13-3. At the Giants five-yard line, quarterback Kyle Allen lofted the ball into the left corner of the end zone, where Thomas was able to grab the ball and barely keep his feet in bounds for a touchdown.
This scoring drive cut Washington's deficit to three points and boosted its morale heading into halftime.
"I tried to keep my feet down and make a play on the ball," Thomas, who recorded his second touchdown of the season, said after the game. "Kyle put up a good [pass]."
Wide receiver Terry McLaurin hauled in a team-leading 74 yards on seven receptions (10.6 avg.). McLaurin's seven receptions moves him into sole possession of second place in receptions through 20-career games with 65.
The Football Team is adding wide receiver Robert Foster to their active roster from the practice squad of the Green Bay Packers, according to Matt Zenitz of AL.com.
Foster appeared in 26 games over the previous two seasons with the Buffalo Bills. After catching 27 passes for 541 yards and three touchdowns as a rookie 2018, he was limited to just three catches for 64 yards last year in Buffalo. The Bills waived him at the end of training camp this year and he was signed by the Packers to their practice squad in September.
Foster will help Washington cover the absence of Steven Sims Jr., who was placed on injured reserve on Oct. 10 due to a toe injury. Despite only playing half the games of his teammates, Sims remains third on the team in receiving yards among receivers. Sims' six catches for 103 yards trails only McLaurin (36 catches -- 487 yards) and Dontrelle Inman (17 -- 148).
Isaiah Wright, Cam Sims and Antonio Gandy-Golden remain options at receiver as well.
Finally, on the injury front. ... Thomas did not practice Wednesday due to a previously unreported neck injury; Gandy-Golden (hamstring) was held out as well. I'll have more on their status via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
QBs: Alex Smith, Taylor Heinicke, Kyle Allen
RBs: Antonio Gibson, J.D. McKissic, Peyton Barber, Javon Leake, Lamar Miller, Bryce Love
WRs: Terry McLaurin, Cam Sims, Isaiah Wright, Steven Sims, Antonio Gandy-Golden
TEs: Logan Thomas, Jeremy Sprinkle